In address, Maui mayor announces deal aimed at finally opening Kihei high school

His team is focused on common-sense priorities — which include water, housing, infrastructure, economic diversification and protecting our environment.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 10:09 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 10:41 AM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen discussed housing, the economy and the long-awaited opening of a Maui high school in his first State of the County address on Tuesday.

The event was open to the public and held on the front lawn of the County Building in Wailuku.

Bissen said 78 days into his tenure, his team is focused on “common-sense priorities,” which include water, affordable housing, infrastructure, economic diversification and protecting our environment.

But perhaps the most surprising announcement of the night was that the long-awaited Kūlanihākoʻi High School in Kihei may soon be opening after all.

“We submitted to Governor Green our terms for an agreement that would indemnify the County from the conditions imposed by the Land Use Commission,” Bissen said.

“After speaking with the Governor today, he is expected to sign the indemnification this week and the county will then be able to issue the much-awaited temporary certificate of occupancy.”

The state Land Use Commission ordered the state Department of Education 10 years ago to build an overpass or an underpass so students can get to school safely.

State officials said they are committed to building an overpass but have yet to fulfill their promise.

“This would allow Kūlanihākoʻi High School – South Maui’s first high school to open its doors to students from their community while at the same time not allowing pedestrian crossing at the now infamous Kīhei Roundabout,” said Bissen.

County officials said parents will have to drop students off to school and students will not be allowed to walk to school until the overpass is built.

Another top priority Bissen discussed was housing.

He will be submitting his budget to the council this Friday and will be proposing an increase to the Affordable Housing Fun from 3% contribution of certified real property tax revenue to an 8% contribution, which equates to about $43 million.

He is also calling for a reduction in property taxes paid for all owner-occupied homes that are valued up to $3 million.

“This is intended to support residents who make the islands their home and not a housing investment,” he said.

Bissen says approximately 100,000 invasive axis deer exist on Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi destroying crops, leaving lands barren, contributing to dangerous flooding. He wants to turn the problem into a business opportunity.

“By developing a market incentive, we will provide an economic stream of venison products, making use of an existing certified processing plant on Maui, and bringing to fruition a plan to manage and mitigate thousands of axis deer.”

He also discussed water issues and his plan to tackle some of the problems.

“My administration is working with the respected non-profit Trust for Public Lands to seek ownership of valuable watershed and conservation lands in Na Wai `Eha and we are speaking with and seeking the acquisition of the Wailuku Water Company,” he said.

The night ended with the mayor playing his ukulele and leading the crowd singing “Hawaii Aloha.”

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