Thursday | December 14, 2017
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Kim: No penalties for cancelling compost contract

Hawaii County will not pay any penalties for terminating its composting and mulching contract, according to Mayor Harry Kim.

The Mayor’s Office announced last week the contract with Hawaiian Earth Recycling will end June 30 because of concerns about cost and scope. A request for proposals for a new mulching contract will be drafted.

The 10-year agreement went into effect last July and covers the ongoing mulching operations on both sides of Hawaii Island in addition to construction of a $10.3 million compost facility next to the Hilo landfill. Construction had yet to begin and an environmental assessment had not been completed.

The approximately 220-page contract allows the county to terminate the agreement at its convenience.

While there are no termination penalties, the contract does allow the company to submit a “termination claim” for reimbursement of certain expenses. That includes costs “incurred in preparation and performing the terminated portion of the work …”

Kim said Tuesday the company hadn’t provided any indication it would or wouldn’t file a claim. Any claim filed is subject to review by the county and mediation.

Hawaiian Earth Vice President Mark Cummings didn’t return a voice mail on his cellphone Tuesday.

Kim reiterated that he didn’t have an issue with the company’s performance and that he supports composting. But he thought the contract wasn’t in the county’s interest.

The facility was intended to divert food waste from the county’s landfills, which the contractor could then sell as compost.

Kim said he thought it was too limited in scope and thought it relied too much on food waste primarily from West Hawaii hotels and other businesses.

The county would have to pay a minimal annual fee of $4 million once the facility was built. Complicating that is BioEnergy Hawaii LLC’s plan to build a waste separation and anaerobic digestion facility at the West Hawaii Concrete Quarry that also would rely on organic waste.

Hawaii County Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski said the county would be competing with many of the same suppliers.

“Had we gone through with the contract and had completed the facility, all the food waste we were going to use would be used by another facility,” he said. “We’d be paying the same amount and not have any kind of quality compost.”

The county needs to have another contract in place to continue mulching operations after June 30.

Kucharski said the County Council will be asked to issue an RFP, possibly in March.

Kim said the request will allow for companies to make offers for mulching operations at either the East and West Hawaii solid waste facilities, or both.

He said the county also will pursue a separate RFP to deal with composting and other methods of waste diversion.

Kucharski estimates the Hilo landfill has one to three years left before its full. The county is working with a contractor to develop a closure plan.

Once the Hilo landfill is closed, additional waste would be trucked to the West Hawaii landfill at Puuanahulu.

Kucharski said it could take a couple of years to sort out the long-term diversion plan.

This isn’t the first time Kim, who was previously mayor from 2000-08, faced the county’s solid waste problems.

He previously proposed a $125 million waste-to-energy plant, but that plan was killed by the County Council in 2008 when costs came in much higher than expected.

Kim said he’s leaving his options open.

“I hope there are better solutions out there,” he said.

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