Talks ongoing over composting deal

Hawaii County and Hawaiian Earth Recycling continue to hammer out the details of a new agreement after Mayor Harry Kim nixed plans to build a composting facility in a quarry near the Hilo landfill.

In a Feb. 7 letter to a County Council committee, Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela said a draft of a final modified agreement was sent to the company and it could take at least another two months for that to be finished.


The legal back-and-forth follows Kim’s decision to terminate the contract, an action he later rescinded when the company agreed to make revisions, last year because of concerns with costs and location of the $10.3 million facility. Panaewa residents objected to that spot because it’s close to some of the home lots.

The county and HER have since made two supplemental agreements addressing the search for a new location and changes in the cost of producing mulch and compost, which the county said would shave $1.5 million off the original 10-year deal in terms of operations.

But the move also has resulted in costs.

A second supplemental agreement reached last October says the county agrees to pay HER $277,982.98 for legal costs incurred between Kim’s termination and rescission notices, costs associated with work done at the quarry site and subcontractor fees.

Additionally, the county is paying for HER’s ongoing legal fees until a final agreement is reached. Kamelamela said the county hasn’t been billed for more attorney fees at this point.

Council members, during a meeting of the Environmental Management Committee on Wednesday, also were told the county will put construction of the facility out to bid rather than leaving that up to HER and then paying $10.3 million upon completion, as the original contract stated.

Kamelamela said that’s being done to ensure compliance with procurement code.

But some on the council were concerned that could lead to higher costs.

“This is going to be a train wreck,” said Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung. “I hope not. … I’m going to hold some people responsible if the price escalates on this thing.”

In the meantime, the county’s Department of Environmental Management expects an environmental assessment to be complete by the end of year. The EA will analyze three sites for the facility.

DEM Director Bill Kucharski told council members last week two potential sites are located in the Shipman Industrial Park and another is near the Keaau solid waste transfer station.

Kamelamela said the county has until July 2020 to have the facility finished. Asked what would happen if that deadline is missed, he said that’s something the final agreement will address.

In the end, he anticipates the county saving money because of lower operational costs.


“Until we hit the end when the final accounting is done, then we’re going to see how much savings we have,” Kamelamela said. “I personally feel it’s going to be savings, but I don’t know because things change.”

Email Tom Callis at

  1. Scooby February 13, 2018 5:04 am

    Leaving this in the hands of the worst attorney in the State and expecting a good result? The county will end up paying more than originally planned, guarantee. We would be better off hiring a good attorney on 89 day contract instead of the $30,000 raise lazy sleepy Joe Kamelamela got for doing nothing! If what lazy sleepy Kamelamela is saying is true, and I don’t believe a word that old man says because he’s a Kim butt kisser, how are we saving money when the project hasn’t gone out to bid yet? My guess is the bid will come is high and we will end up paying 3.5 mil over the original price. Thanks lazy sleepy Joe!

    1. lazerhaze February 13, 2018 5:18 am

      You sound like Trump with your petty insults and the poorly built straw men you love to beat up. Pathetic. I actually agree with you.. but the way you go about it destroys your credibility. “lazy sleepy Kamelamela” sounds like “tiny hands Marco Rubio” and makes you sound as ignorant and stupid as Trump does.

      1. Scooby February 13, 2018 5:42 am

        Thats my opinion and description of him. You don’t need to agree or like what I say, I don’t care what you think of me. If you know Joe Kamelamela, he’s lazy as S*&t and sleeps at Council meetings all the time…ignorant and stupid? I think not. Sounds like you’re a Kim and Kamelamela backer. Good to know

        1. lazerhaze February 14, 2018 1:16 pm

          I back respect. You deserve none.

    2. Rusty Da Clown February 13, 2018 9:00 am

      Joe should have stayed retired. Just like Harry.

  2. Rusty Da Clown February 13, 2018 8:59 am

    Talks ongoing? That’s Harry Kim, talk talk talk. Oh, and raise taxes. This composting facility was ready to go when Billy Kenoi was mayor. Then Harry Kim pulled the plug, and now we are still waiting. And paying. And putting more and more into the landfills.

  3. Whopyahjaws February 13, 2018 4:30 pm

    Joe so we wait until 2020 or later to see if we save money? How about saving some money now instead of raising every single tax out there. In 2020 I might be taxed out and homeless. I sure hope $10,000 Handy Andy is getting us some legislative money. But he did save us $6,000 a month by accepting a cut in pay. Mahalo Andy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email