Broader abandoned vehicle rule drives forward

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

KAILUA-KONA — A bill that would fix county law to permit the Department of Environmental Management to remove abandoned vehicles from state and federal property is moving forward.

The Hawaii County Council’s nine members voted unanimously Wednesday to advance Bill 88 to one final reading before the full council. If passed then, the bill would go to Mayor Harry Kim for his signature.

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The bill, introduced by Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas, aims to fix a glitch in a law passed last year that opened up hauling of abandoned and derelict vehicles to include private roadways. While the bill defined private roads, it didn’t completely define public property, prompting the county to stop hauling vehicles from state and federal property.

Bill 88 would amend the definition of public property to include county, state and federal lands.

“I just ask for your continued support,” Villegas said during the council’s meeting at the West Hawaii Civic Center. “We’ve had great conversations regarding this. Since, we’ve actually received a lot of positive reinforcement from constituents in our community.”

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

In July, according to DEM Director William Kucharski’s commission report, contractors Ken’s Towing and Diamond Auto Workz towed 119 abandoned vehicles. The total tow request was 135; however, 16 vehicles were removed prior to the arrival of the towing contractors.

In fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30, the county towed 1,408 vehicles. Of that, 687 were towed in West Hawaii and 721 in East Hawaii. That averages to 117 vehicles per month.

The county is working to resume its amnesty program that subsidizes disposal costs for those who tow their own vehicles to the scrapyard. Once the program is announced, which officials hope will be by the end of the year, those towing to the scrapyard must make prior arrangements with the department.

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West Hawaii Today reporter Nancy Cook Lauer contributed to this report.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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