More complete numbers coming for TMT-related costs

The Hawaii County Council Finance Committee on Tuesday discussed a possible financial report of the county’s expenses relating to the ongoing standoff on Maunakea, but meaningful numbers will not be available until later this month.

Puna council member Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder requested a report of how much money the county has spent on labor related to the Thirty Meter Telescope protest, but ultimately postponed the issue until the committee’s next meeting later this month, when more complete numbers can be determined.

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County Finance Director Deanna Sako confirmed that the Department of Finance established a project accounting code that can track expenses related to TMT. That code, she said, has incurred about $258,000 in costs so far.

However, because of the way salaries and overtime are paid by the county, that number is not particularly illuminating. Sako said about $236,000 of the total figure is labor costs from July 1-15. Because the standoff began July 15, only a single day of TMT-related overtime is accounted for; overtime data for the rest of July will not be available until Aug. 15.

A handful of members of the public testified in support of Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder’s request for the financial report, citing a public need for greater transparency in what the county is spending on such a divisive issue. Many testifiers criticized the use of county funds to pay for a corporation’s security.

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Because of the currently unavailable data, and because law enforcement representatives could not attend Tuesday’s committee meeting, the meeting was recessed until the committee meets again Aug. 20 in Kona. Because the issue was not closed Tuesday, public testimony will not be possible during the Aug. 20 meeting.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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