Wille: use golf course fund to staff sub-par transfer stations

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Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille wants to slice into Hilo Municipal Golf Course funds to hire three new transfer station attendants to help promote recycling programs.


Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille wants to slice into Hilo Municipal Golf Course funds to hire three new transfer station attendants to help promote recycling programs.

In a budget amendment to be considered Monday, Wille is asking that golfers and the community do more to augment the greens fees at the county’s only publicly funded golf course instead of relying on taxpayer bailouts. It’s more important, she said, to use the money to address the county’s burgeoning solid waste problem by adding more recycling programs.

Wille proposes to take $179,565 from the $462,856 greens fee budget. The balance will take the golf course through the first six months of the fiscal year, and the community can pitch in to make up the difference, she said.

“That gives them the time they need to figure out how to partner with the community, to increase greens fees or through fundraising or membership drives,” Wille said.

The money would pay for three solid waste facility attendant positions that are currently vacant and unfunded, as well as the fringe benefits for each position. The three positions are in Hilo, Kohala and Kona.

Wille wants to increase recycling as part of the county’s zero-waste initiative, reducing garbage so no new landfills or other waste disposal systems will be required.

But her budget amendment isn’t supported by the directors of the affected departments. Even the department that would get the money, Environmental Management, doesn’t want it, according to Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd.

She said the county needs to improve the facilities at those transfer stations before the positions would be useful.

“I talked with the division chief, and he feels the existing funding provides enough for his current level of operations,” Leithead Todd said.

Parks and Recreation Director Clayton Honma doesn’t want to lose the money. He said greens fees were raised in 2012, and he doesn’t think the golfers, many of them elderly, can afford another increase. Resident fees were raised that year from $12 weekdays and $15 weekends to $15 and $20 respectively.

Honma said the course saw a dramatic decline in golfers once fees were raised, and he fears the same thing would happen, resulting in no more money for operations.

“It totally affects everything and it goes back to square one,” he said.

Wille’s amendment is one of more than a dozen council amendments to Mayor Billy Kenoi’s proposed operating and capital improvement budgets that will be considered starting at 9 a.m. Monday in council chambers in Hilo. In order to increase money for one program, council members need to take it away from somewhere else to keep the budget balanced.

The public can testify in Hilo or at the West Hawaii Civic Center, Waimea council office, Kohala county facility, Naalehu state office building or Pahoa neighborhood facility.

Buoyed by an improved economy, Mayor Billy Kenoi’s budget boosts spending and adds 30 new positions without raising property taxes. Individual property owners still could see tax increases, however, if their property values increase.

The new proposed budget, at $438.8 million, is 5.25 percent higher than last year’s budget and about $4 million higher than a proposed budget released earlier this year.

An $81.7 million capital improvements budget focuses on repairing and expanding wastewater systems, improving park facilities and maintaining and repairing roads. There’s also money for a South Kona police station, improving detention cells, improving garbage transfer stations and beginning the process of closing the Hilo landfill.


The council has until June 30, the last day of the fiscal year, to amend and pass a budget or the mayor’s budget automatically goes into effect July 1.

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

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