County abandonded vehicle program sees improvement

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today file photo An abandoned vehicle sits on the side of Makala Boulevard on March 18 in Kona.

The Hawaii County Council is fixing a glitch in a law that allows the county to haul abandoned vehicles from county property, but not state or federal property.

Bill 88, set to be heard Wednesday by the council, is in response to a law passed last year that opened up hauling of abandoned and derelict vehicles to include those on private roadways, such as in Puna and Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. When the bill defined private roads, it didn’t completely define public property.

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“This is just a bit of cleanup on something that got left off,” Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas, who sponsored the bill on behalf of the administration, told fellow council members last week.

The county Department of Environmental Management stopped hauling from state and federal property after the bill passed, but Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski said only a few vehicles were affected.

A $12 fee on annual vehicle registrations pays for the abandoned vehicle program.

The program has been a source of complaints on both sides of the island for years. But Kucharski said it’s improved greatly thanks to changes in state law giving the county more wiggle room in how it handles abandoned vehicles while requiring counties take abandoned vehicles into custody within 10 business days.

Kucharski credits the economic climate, the price of scrap metal and increased competition among scrapyards as helping keep the program on budget. The price of accepting scrap cars has dropped from $680 to $280, Kucharski said.

“I think the abandoned vehicle program is now going as good as it ever has and it’s going to get better,” Kucharski said.

He cited a learning curve with new scrap dealers as an earlier issue, but said the department is on a roll, collecting about 1,000 vehicles each year.

The department plans soon to resume an amnesty program that subsidizes disposal costs for those who tow their own vehicles to the scrapyard. Once the program is announced, those towing to the scrapyard must make prior arrangements with the department.

In the amnesty program, the county pays the disposal fee. The owner — who must present the title and fill out an application form — is responsible for the towing and removal costs from the vehicle’s location to the designated scrap metal recyclers. The county pays only the disposal costs directly to the county’s existing scrap metal contractors.

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More about abandoned vehicles can be found at www.hawaiizerowaste.org/recycle/automotive/.

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

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