WAILUKU – With mutual allegations of insincerity flying, the County Council Water Resources Committee on Tuesday decided to allow its resolution about exploring the possibility of acquiring the Piiholo South water well to expire.
However, committee Chairman Mike Victorino said he plans to revive the idea when the new council convenes in January.
Zachary Franks, co-managing director of Piiholo South, originally proposed selling his well to the Department of Water Supply, but he did not like the way the county responded. Tuesday, he asked the council to allow its resolution to expire.
“It was a complete failure,” he said.
He charged that Council Member Wayne Nishiki had introduced the resolution “with the primary, though unstated, purpose of derailing Kula Ridge. Prior to its introduction, Piiholo South, towards whom the resolution was putatively aimed, was not even notified by Mr. Nishiki of the resolution’s existence, let alone consulted with regard to its substance.”
When he did learn the framework of a proposal, he said it was “a disproportionate and unfair deal” that would have had Piiholo South “hand over” 95 percent of its well for free. That, he told, the committee “could never happen.”
Nishiki is not a member of the committee, but he usually attends its meetings. He was not present when Franks made his statement, but he came in later and accused Franks of not sincerely wanting to deal with the county. “As far as I am concerned, he can go back to the Mainland,” Nishiki said.
Piiholo South dug and tested a well that it says could produce more than 1.5 million gallons of water per day, enough to cut deeply into the Upcountry water meter waiting list. The original purpose was to develop senior housing next to St. Joseph Church.
The landowners later decided that project was not practical and offered the well to the county.
There were questions about the amount of the water, its quality and how much it would cost to connect it to the existing water system.
Department of Water Supply Director Jeff Eng had said he would want a longer pump test before he could decide whether the well would suit county purposes. Piiholo South tested for four days. Tuesday, Eng said again that he would want a test of at least 10 days.
The council wanted Piiholo South to pay for it.
Meanwhile, Piiholo South had entered negotiations with the developer of Kula Ridge to turn over a portion of the water so that his project could meet its requirements.
After lengthy hearings, and over Nishiki’s objections, the council approved Kula Ridge as a fast-track affordable housing project with 116 lots on 48 acres above Holy Ghost Church and the Kula Community Center. More than half would be affordable to seniors and families.
The resolution “has not derailed Kula Ridge, and it has not brought the administration and Piiholo South together,” Franks wrote to Victorino.
Council Member Mike Molina asked Eng whether he had had discussions with Piiholo South. None, since the original letter went out in September, he said.
Further questioning indicated that Franks replied to the Mayor’s Office. Eng said he was never informed about that, and Franks said he never heard back from the mayor.
Victorino indicated that he is still interested in the well. He said he would try to revive talks next year, and he hopes to work cooperatively with all parties, the new administration and the well owner.
On Monday, Mayor-elect Alan Arakawa named Dave Taylor as director of the Department of Water Supply, although his nomination faces confirmation by the County Council.
Council Members Joe Pontanilla and Gladys Baisa both said they wanted to be sure about the quality of the water before spending county money, but neither said the deal should just be abandoned.