GOING DARK? Condo residents express helplessness about HELCO situation
The Hawaii Electric Light Co. is giving Country Club-Hawaii a little more time to pay down the $212,385 it owes the utility.
“This afternoon, Hawai‘i Electric Light granted a request from the Court-Appointed Receiver to extend the deadline for another week which will give the Receiver the time needed to make best efforts to pay the bill and ensure continued electric service for the building tenants,” HELCO spokeswoman Kristen Okinaka said in an email Wednesday.
Notices HELCO placed in the approximately 150-unit building said power would be shut off at 11 a.m. today. The utility had told the condo association it needed a $100,000 payment by last Tuesday to keep the lights on.
Okinaka said the notices will be removed.
The news will likely come as a relief, at least temporarily, for residents who were bracing for the worst Wednesday.
Those who could were making arrangements to move out or take refuge elsewhere while others contemplated how long they could stay in the Banyan Drive condominium without power.
“It’s a big shock to me,” said Vance Bond. “Can I live without electricity?”
For Archie Tanabe, the answer to that question may be no.
Tanabe, 59, said he needs to refrigerate his insulin. But with income limited to Social Security disability payments, he was unsure where else he could go.
“I’m going to stay here until they so called shut it off,” Tanabe said. “Somebody needs to step in.”
Several condo owners, led by Carl Oguss, have filed suit against master leaseholder Herbert Arata, his wife Alyce Arata, and others alleging misuse of maintenance fees. The fees cover utilities and building costs for each of the units.
Oguss also heads a new association board formed last year. Arata and the building’s management recognize the original board.
Both claim to be in charge of the association. The split appeared to exacerbate the situation, with condo owners unsure of who to pay for their monthly fees.
Oguss said about half weren’t paying anyone. He said his board has been making payments to HELCO with the money it receives, but added it still falls short.
Some residents said they were paying their maintenance fees directly to HELCO due to the confusion.
Oguss said he had threatened to seek a restraining order in court against HELCO if power was cut.
“You turn us off at 11, we’re going to be in court Thursday afternoon or Friday,” he said he told the company.
Residents were also split over which board to blame for the situation.
Oguss said he is fully aware of the divide. “I feel like Abe Lincoln in Alabama sometimes,” he said.
Some residents, including many of the renters, said they felt already in the dark about what is going on.
Bob Dover, a former member of the original board, said the worst off will be disabled residents who will not be able to use the elevator if the power goes out.
“It’s the weakest who suffer,” he said. “There are a lot of not well people who are stressing.”
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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