Council chair calls for HART CEO's resignation - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

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Council chair calls for HART CEO's resignation

Ernie Martin (Image: Hawaii News Now) Ernie Martin (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Don Horner (Image: Hawaii News Now) Don Horner (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Image: Hawaii News Now Image: Hawaii News Now
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Prompted by continued cost overruns and a scathing city audit, Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin is calling for the rail system's CEO and board chairman to resign.

"I said very early on that I was going to stop the bleeding. I mean it's past the point of the Band-aid stage," Martin told Hawaii News Now. "We're looking at the tourniquet stage already and before we start losing some limbs, some action needs to be taken."

In a letter to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Thursday, Martin was critical of Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Chairman Don Horner, who said last week that the project may not have enough money to cover rising costs -- even after extending the general excise tax surcharge for an additional five years.

Martin also cites further potential delays due to utility lines that need to be placed underground in Kalihi and the downtown areas.

"I know the general public is frustrated and disappointed. The members of the council are very disappointed as well," he said."We feel like we're getting played."

Martin said that if HART's board makes no changes in its management, the council could reduce HART's budget.

"We can even revisit the GET surcharge ... to apply additional scrutiny on the project," he said.

A spokesman for Caldwell said the mayor will meet with Horner on Monday and that the mayor shares many of Martin's concerns.

Martin said the audit, which is still in draft form and so hasn't been released, found that construction changes at the Pearl Highlands transit center and parking garage will add $250 million to the project.

He said the audit also found that burying Hawaiian Electric Co.'s  utility lines underground will increase costs by another $100 million. Sources familiar with the report also said it raises serious concerns about the credibility of HART's financial reporting.

The auditor, they said, found that the project cost estimates lacked documentation and that HART had no plan for operations and maintenance costs.

Grabauskas was not available for comment but a spokesman said HART plans to dispute the audit's findings.

Some rail critics feel Martin isn't going far enough.

"Clearly the project is not running the way its supposed to be running," said UH engineering professor Panos Prevedouros, a longtime opponent of the rail project. "And I believe the board pretty much needs to be wholesale replaced."

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