County officials shot down a bill that would require the county to establish a plan to control feral animals and waste at county facilities.
Members of the County Council Committee on Agriculture, Water, Energy and Environmental Management discussed on Tuesday a measure that would establish a series of best practices for a comprehensive environmental quality control program for county facilities.
The measure, introduced last year by then-Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, would create a program to “control nuisance factors at county facilities … that impact environmental and human health, including, but not limited to, illegally disposed refuse and wastewater and biological nuisances such as invasive plant species, feral cats, dogs and pigs.”
However, Environmental Management director Bill Kucharski testified in opposition to the bill, saying his department already uses best practices in dealing with environmental nuisance factors.
“There are issues with handling solid waste,” Kucharski said. “Waste attracts rats, which attract cats, and then you get dogs, pigs, birds.”
Because of the nature of waste management, Kucharski said his department already needs to control and manage outside vectors such as feral animals. For example, he said, his department provides predator control at the Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant in order to protect endangered seabirds that nest in the area from the feral cats drawn to the plant.
While Kucharski said a mandate that would codify the environmental best practices into law would be “nice,” the bill would not improve his department’s vector control practices.
Because of the its lack of apparent benefits, the committee concluded the measure would not be a productive use of county funds.
“This year is going to be a very tight year,” said Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy before voting against the bill.
Other committee members agreed, with newly appointed Puna Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder saying he prefers to defer to the judgment of the person in charge of the department. All nine members of the committee voted against the bill.
Environmental Management Commissioner Jon Olson — who was reappointed to the commission during Tuesday’s meeting — acknowledged the county needs to consider modifying its environmental management practices. Olson said he has seen “piles of rubbish” left at transfer stations by residents attempting to use the stations during the holidays, exacerbating the feral animal issue.
While Olson said Bill 192 was successful in starting a discussion about environmental management practices, the county will require a more comprehensive revision of its policies than the bill could provide.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.