Council differs on response to trash shipping delays - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Council differs on response to trash shipping delays

Tim Steinberger Tim Steinberger
Nestor Garcia Nestor Garcia
Gary Takeuchi Gary Takeuchi

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Frustrations are piling up with the trash.  Hawaiian Waste Systems started receiving the city's trash September 28 of last year and since then not a single barge has set off for the mainland.  In all more than 20,000 tons of garbage is still waiting to be shipped.  Now there is some dispute within the city council over what to do next.

The city was concerned about permitting and documentation since before awarding the contract and while they aren't saying I told you so some within the city are getting frustrated with the repeated missed deadlines.

The gates at the Hawaiian Waste Systems facility are closed.  They aren't accepting any more trash until they get the okay to ship from the federal government.

"There were some decisions made on their side that perhaps were just not wise," said Tim Steinberger, Environmental Services Department Director.

"I can't help but feel Hawaiian Waste Systems intentionally deceived this council. I feel like we were intentionally misled," said Ikaika Anderson, Honolulu City Councilmember during today's hearing.

The Hawaiian Waste Systems president who negotiated the deal has resigned.  The company's new management admits some surprising and ineffective management decisions were made but says they weren't lying.

"I don't see any way the company was being deceitful, I just think it was an overly optimistic prior management," said Mike Chutz, Hawaiian Waste Systems President and CEO. 

Chutz says he knows the company has a responsibility and will continue to work with the government. He also wishes things would have been handled differently and says at this point the operation is not cost effective.  However he will not say the company is losing a lot of money and says they have collected some revenue through private transactions.

Some city council members are tired of waiting and are talking about taking back the $10 million a year contract.

"I need to get their attention.  Apparently they are not responding to us.  Many times we asked them to come and respond to our questions and they haven't come.  Maybe the only way to do that is to grab their wallet and I'll do that come Monday," said Nestor Garcia, Honolulu City Councilmember who also chairs the budget committee and says he plans to cut the shipping budget in half from $10 million to $5 million for this year.

"I think it's time to pull the plug. I think we need to cut our losses and move on," said Ikaika Anderson, Honolulu City Councilmember.

That's tough since the city has not paid Hawaiian Waste Systems a dime.  In the contract the city does not transfer any money until the garbage is transferred to the landfill.  If Hawaiian Waste doesn't send 100,000 tons by September 28, then they pay the city.

"But the bottom line is today you cannot say okay we're going to cancel their contract," asked Ann Kobayashi, Honolulu City Councilmember during the hearing.

"That is correct," responded Gary Takeuchi, attorney for the city.

"Right now there has been no exchange of money so I think we'd be hard pressed to say yes they are absolutely in breach," said Steinberger.  "If they fall short say by 100 tons they have to pay $100,000 to the city so it's a fairly substantial penalty."

Still not everyone is willing to throw the company out with the trash.

"I think there is a time for wait and see. I know people are not happy about what's happening but I still think there is a benefit for us if they can make it work," said Gary Okino, Honolulu City Council Member.

The city says the best case scenario in a perfect world would be the company gets its compliance agreement back and is able to start shipping by the end of this month, but they're hesitant to put a deadline on it since so many have already been missed.

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