A bill authorizing the county to pick up abandoned vehicles on private roads soon will be back before the County Council after a unanimous endorsement Wednesday by the Environmental Management Commission.
The county stopped providing that service March 1 after realizing it had no legal authority to do so.
“I’d rather not be in a government that ignores its own rules,” said Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski.
Many private roads, especially in Puna and subdivisions such as Hawaiian Ocean View Estates, are used by the public and managed by homeowner associations or road corporations set up by the developments.
More than half the roads in Puna are private roads, estimated Commissioner Jon Olson.
“This problem, we thought we had already addressed by allowing police to cite vehicles on private roadways,” Olson said.
Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, Bill 154 sponsor, who previously worked in Environmental Management, said the county had picked up the vehicles along private roadways for 15 years before the policy changed. She said recent changes to state law had the county reviewing its abandoned vehicle policy.
A bill Gov. David Ige signed into law last week requires counties to remove vehicles on public roadways within 10 days of abandonment.
The final version of the state bill also repeals a statute that required counties to dispose of vehicles through public auctions. While public auctions are allowed as options to dispose of confiscated vehicles, no county is required to hold one.
The Environmental Management Department is working with the Hawaii Police Department to see if county staff can help get abandoned vehicles identified and tagged. To be considered abandoned, a vehicle must first be tagged, then after at least 24 hours, it can be cited and considered abandoned if it’s still there.
“Legally, it’s not abandoned until it’s cited,” Kucharski said. “That’s when the clock starts ticking.”
Police are the only ones authorized to tag the vehicles, so the process hangs up when officers have more pressing crimes to pursue.
Kucharski said more than 60 percent of the angry calls coming into his office deal with abandoned vehicles.
“It’s in our interest to expedite this process,” he said.
A planned amnesty period when the county will pay the $680 disposal cost if the owner tows the vehicle to the scrapyard is still in the works, Kucharski said after the meeting. He said the county is in the process of creating forms and getting legal advice on the project and will put out a notice once the program starts.
More information about abandoned vehicles can be found at www.hawaiizerowaste.org/recycle/automotive.
To report an abandoned vehicle, call the police department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.