Deal possible on paying for Hawaii telescope policing costs

Police lined the roadway to the Mauna Kea summit on Wednesday afternoon. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Police lined the roadway to the Mauna Kea summit on Wednesday afternoon. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Published: Apr. 8, 2020 at 4:45 AM HST
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HILO, Hawaii (AP) — The Hawaii County Council plans to discuss a new potential agreement with the state about reimbursement for law enforcement costs during demonstrations against the Big Island giant telescope project.

An amended agreement is expected to go before the council next week to authorize the state to reimburse the county $5.3 million, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Monday.

The amount equals overtime and other expenses incurred by the Hawaii County Police Department and county mayor’s office during protests opposing the Thirty Meter Telescope Project on the summit of Mauna Kea, the state’s highest mountain.

Opponents of the telescope have said the project, estimated to cost $2.4 billion, will desecrate land considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians.

A previous proposal was rejected by the council in December.

The agreement with the state would have reimbursed the county up to $10 million, but included a condition that the agreement would last for five years and the use of $4.7 million would be determined.

The council unanimously rejected the proposal after expressing concerns the $10 million would include provisions forcing the county to provide security for construction convoys or other projects.

The new proposal includes reimbursement for expenses already incurred and does not appear to include a five-year condition, Councilwoman Maile David said.

David, head of the council’s finance committee, said she does not anticipate the amended proposal to generate significant controversy during council debate.

“This is coming back exactly the way we requested,” David said. “It shouldn’t be too controversial. It’s what we wanted.”

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