HALEIWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The harbor agent used to occupy an upstairs office in a two-story building overlooking Haleiwa Boat Harbor. But for more than a year that position and that office have been empty.
And now, harbor users are complaining the vacancy is delaying parking renewals and other permits.
"My permits expired in August, and I still don't have my commercial permits," said Joe Pavsek, owner of North Shore Shark Adventures.
State Department of Land and Natural Resources officials say they've tried to fill the position, but have gotten little interest. Starting pay is low and the hiring process is lengthy.
Haleiwa isn't the only harbor without an agent.
"Currently we have no harbor agent in Waianae, we have no harbor agent in Haleiwa, and we're down on harbor agents in Keehi Small Boat Harbor as well as the Ala Wai Small Boat Harbor," said Boating and Ocean Recreation administrator Ed Underwood.
The state spent $5.2 million to fix piers and build new ones at Haleiwa. Boaters like the upgrades, but not what they call a slow response to day-to-day emergencies. For example, Pavsek said, a recent water leak lasted seven days before it was fixed.
He said some harbor users would do emergency repairs themselves if the state would let them.
Underwood said that's not happening.
"First of all there's a the liability issues," he said. "And then there's going to be the issues of taking a job away from a union member."
In lieu of a full-time harbor agent for Haleiwa, boaters have asked for a fill-in at least one day a week to process permits. DLNR can't commit to that because of staffing shortages.
But state Sen. Gil Riviere, whose district includes Haleiwa, said that's not an acceptable answer.
"I think that they should be able to schedule one day a week, one day every other week," he said, adding that lawmakers will tackle the state's harbor needs in next year's legislative session.
Underwood said DLNR wants state permission to hire 51 new positions. That would cost $2.8 million.
He added, "We're also going to be asking to be allowed public-private partnerships on some of our facilities."