Opinions mixed on Nalani Street water system

A proposed improvement district along Nalani Street in Kona’s Sunset View Terrace subdivision is drawing a mixed reaction from residents there.

A proposed improvement district along Nalani Street in Kona’s Sunset View Terrace subdivision is drawing a mixed reaction from residents there.

The project would create a water distribution system in a neighborhood that currently relies on a 50-year-old private system that can serve only 10 homes. Residents within range of the new system would be required to hook up after paying their share of the cost of the system, which would be operated by the county Department of Water Supply.

It’s not yet known how much each homeowner will be assessed. The County Council is poised to approve the first step in the process next week, directing the Water Department to create a report detailing the cost and what will be required to create the improvement district. The Finance Committee on March 16 voted 9-0 in favor.

Whatever the cost, it’s too much for resident Kay Guffy. She told committee members that she paid $16,000 four years ago to put in her own waterlines after her line broke. The line runs 100 yards under Sunset Drive to the meter, she said. She said she asked to be connected to the Nalani Street Water Association system, but was turned down.

“I have already paid,” Guffy said. “I do not want to pay again.”

Other residents point to the lack of fire hydrants in the area and the need to replace the old system.

“I would just rest more assured if we could get more water,” said Beth McCormick. “It’s pretty sketchy. It’s in pretty bad shape.”

McCormick said a brush fire close to her home some years ago reinforced the need for fire hydrants in the area.

“It’s been brought to our attention numerous times of the frustrations from the Nalani Street Water Association as well as residents who could not get water,” said Keith Okamoto, manager-chief engineer for the Department of Water Supply.

The project would put a water main down Nalani Street, with hookups to the 31 properties.

Owners of 18 of the 31 properties have given initial approval to the concept, said Walter Kimura, representing the Nalani Street Water Association.

“I can feel for her,” Kimura said of Guffy.

County Council Chairman Dru Kanuha, who represents central Kona, said it’s difficult when half the residents want a district that will apply to the entire street.

“It’s a really tough situation,” Kanuha said. “Who’s right and who’s wrong? We want to give the residents the opportunity to speak on what they feel is in the best interest of them and their community.”

Still, Kanuha said, public safety has to be a factor. Fire hydrants are needed in an area where there have been brush fires.

After the Council vote, the Department of Water Supply will submit a report, giving general details about the improvement plan, boundaries of the improvement district and the estimated cost to be borne by the county and the homeowners. Public hearings will be hosted to explain the process and take input from residents.

More than half the homeowners must approve the district for it to take effect. Depending on the income level of the residents, the project could qualify for U.S. Department of Agriculture loans or grants.

“We’re fully supportive,” Okamoto said. “If this is what the community wants and needs, we’re fully supportive as we have been with other subdivisions in the past.”

The county established a similar improvement district in 2011 for the Kona Ocean View subdivision, also known as Puukala.

Each homeowner there was assessed about $15,000, to be paid during a period of no more than 35 years. The subdivision had existed without county water since the 1950s.

“This is going to be a long process,” Kanuha concluded. “But I think this is a start.”

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.