Not quite 'lights out' in Hilo condo power struggle - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Not quite 'lights out' in Hilo condo power struggle

HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Residents at a Hilo condominium building have been spared from getting their electricity shut off -- for now. But they say it's all because of a power struggle for control.

Hawaii Electric Light Company said the Country Club Condominiums on Banyan Drive owes more than $100,000 on its electric bill. It had posted a notice on the building's front door Tuesday afternoon, saying that the power would be disconnected at 11 a.m. Thursday if it didn't get paid.

Residents contend that the unpaid electric bill is because there are two different boards of directors struggling for control.

"The people who started this other board don't like the idea that this is a hotel condo," said resident Joy Keesey. "I believe these properties along Banyan Drive are supposed to be for transient accommodations."

Keesey and her husband, Bob, have owned a condo in the 140-unit building since 2003. They claim that residents -- and finances -- have been in turmoil since the new board took control of the property last year.

Residents have been paying their utilities through the new board, the old one, or directly to HELCO. However, "A lot of people, because of the divisive board situation, decided not to pay any of their utilities," said Keesey. "So we're really operating on less money than we're supposed to have."

In a statement, HELCO said, "This (Wednesday) 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." The receiver was appointed recently to handle the condo's finances.

The utility also said it had been working with the condo association for about a year, and had notified it of the possible power shutoff more than a month ago. "However, recognizing the hardship this would pose for the tenants, we extended the payment deadline to give them more time to prepare and find other accommodations."

However, it's already too late for Halau Hula `O Kahikilaulani. The halau of the late Ray Fonseca has rented the bottom floor of the Country Club for several years, and has been busy rehearsing and sewing costumes for next month's Merrie Monarch Festival.

"We need to practice, we need to sew. And we're doing this and they turn off the light, what do I do?" asked Kumu Hula Nahokuokalani Gaspang.

Gaspang said the halau decided to move out of the building. "I think it's best for us to get out of here because now I don't know how worse it's gonna get."


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