Water Board votes down rule changes


By ERIN MILLER

Stephens Media

The Water Board voted down changes to its rules that would have codified requirements that standpipe lessees comply with all federal, state and county laws, rules and regulations.

The proposed changes, from the Department of Water Supply, arose from comments members of the public made following the department’s awarding of standpipe leases in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates to newly formed water hauling companies that did not have Public Utilities Commission licenses, tax licenses and liability insurance, Deputy Corporation Counsel Kathy Garson said.

Board members didn’t discuss the rule change as it pertained to the standpipes, despite testimony earlier in the morning on that same subject. Instead, they looked at a second proposal, which would have allowed the department to turn off water service to any customer for failing to comply with federal, state and county laws, rules and regulations. Garson told board members they could bifurcate the two proposals, but no one took her up on the suggestion. Instead, only board member Ken Kaneshiro voted in favor of the changes, after a brief discussion about the implications of the latter recommendation, regarding shutting off water service.

“How many different agencies can come and tell you what to do?” board member David Greenwell asked, giving a hypothetical situation in which a planning commission asked the Department of Water Supply to turn off water at an unpermitted bed and breakfast.

“I don’t want (the department) to be enforcement,” board member Rick Robinson added.

Earlier in the meeting, board members deferred action on a recommendation to award the HOVE commercial standpipe leases via lottery, instead of the first-come, first-served process that was used earlier this year. Several testifiers said they had obtained a lease, but admitted they did so before receiving their PUC license and other paperwork to operate a water hauling company. At least two long-time water hauling companies, which had completed the sometimes lengthy PUC application and award process, did not get standpipes.

The Water Supply’s guidelines to apply for a standpipe did not include a requirement to have a PUC license, testifiers said.

“Everybody’s complaining about the PUC,” one of the standpipe recipients, Jeff Santana, said. “I sent all the paperwork in. I got the insurance, I got the tax license. Everything I need, I have.”

People complaining about the award process are throwing “tantrums,” he added.

Joe Kaipo, owner of Lehua Water Delivery Service, testified in favor of reviewing the award process.

“I am a person that believes in competition,” Kaipo said. “I also believe, like the president said, so long as it’s done properly.”

The PUC doesn’t respond to complaints about companies operating without a PUC license, he said. He’s been hauling water for more than 30 years, and it took him more than a year to get his PUC license, he added.

The water board listened to the testimony and DWS Manager-Chief Engineer Quirino Antonio’s suggestion that they schedule a hearing in Ocean View before making any decision. They did not schedule a hearing or a regular meeting in Ka‘u, but deferred any action until after the county’s legislative auditor completes an investigation into the incident and the department’s standpipe-awarding process.

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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