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Budget Committee Slashes Wailuku Garage Funds in 6-3 vote cuts money in half for the proposed structure

County Director of Finance Scott Teruya confers with his deputy May-Anne Alibin during a session of the Economic Development and Budget Committee on Aug. 27. The meeting resulted in a vote which is the first step toward a major reduction in funding for the Wailuku Parking Garage, as well as a proposal to begin discussions to also build a designated garage for county workers. (S. Halas photo)

In a stunning turnabout, the Economic Development and Budget (EDB) Committee of the Maui County Council voted 6-3 to cut already allocated bond funds for the Wailuku Parking Garage from $42 million to $27.7 million. Of that amount, approximately $13 million has already been encumbered (Approximately $10 million for infrastructure to Vineyard and Church St. area identified as Phase 1-A, and about $3 million in a management contract for supervising the building of Phase 1-A, the infrastructure and Phase 1-B, the garage itself.)

While the original bond appropriation called for approx. $29 million to go to a four-story parking garage to be built on the site of the current municipal lot, the measure approved by the budget committee today cut that amount in half and directed that $14.5 million go to a scaled-down two-story version of the original plan.

In a related action, the committee indicated it was willing to put back another $14.5 million if the money would be used to build a separate parking garage for the use of county employees. 

The portion of the ordinance relating to the original Phase 1-B Garage now goes to the full council where it will be heard again and could be amended. If it passes first reading, it will go on to a second and final reading.

Though as yet unfunded, the discussion relating to establishing an additional parking structure for county employees was jointly referred to the EDB (Economic Development & Budget) Committee for budgetary deliberation, and to the Infrastructure Committee for discussion of siting, planning, and design.

Those voting in committee to scale back the municipal lot and begin consideration of a structure for employee parking were Sinenci, Molina, Lee, King, Paltin and EDB Committee Chair Rawlins-Fernandez. The motion to initiate the cutback was made by Lee and seconded by Sinenci.

Those opposed to the measure were members Hokama, Kama, and Sugimura.

In an email to MAUIWatch, EDB Chair Rawlins-Fernandez commented, “Members were clear, they wished to provide Wailuku more parking while protecting the character of Old Wailuku Town and it’s residents. I’m happy that the committee supported the compromise, and that Wailuku councilmember, Alice Lee, is eager to tackle the issue of a garage for county workers in her Infrastructure Committee right away. I look forward to working with her and the other members to build a structure that is appropriate.”

Rawlins-Fernandez also commented that ideally she and other members of the council would prefer to work collaboratively with the mayor and his administration on plans to fund and build a structure for county workers which would have the desired effect of “getting county workers out of stalls in the municipal lot and on-street parking that should be going to Wailuku businesses and customers.”

Appearing in chambers to answer council questions about finances relating to the proposed Wailuku garage were Redevelopment Office staffer Erin Wade; her boss, Managing Director Sandy Baz; Finance Director Scott Teruya and Deputy Finance Director May-Anne Alibin. After the meeting Baz was reluctant to comment, saying only that the change in funding – if ultimately approved – would require many adjustments to existing plans and schedules.

Hokama, Sugimura and Kama, the members who wanted to see the big-ticket garage go ahead as planned, found when the vote was taken that their colleagues did not agree with them. During the deliberations, Hokama gave multiple strong endorsements for the original plan to build a large garage but also to Phase 2 of the proposal – a Civic Center building and plaza which (if built) would bring the estimated construction costs to a whopping $84 million. 

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About Susan Halas

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Susan Halas is a Senior Political Contributor at MAUIWatch. She has followed Hawaii politics since 1976 when she moved to the Valley Isle. She was formerly a staff writer for the Maui News as well as other local print and digital publications.

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