KAILUA-KONA — Staff shortages continue in the county Department of Environmental Management, this time prompting the closure Monday of two transfer stations and a green waste site in West Hawaii.
Residents looking to drop their trash at the Keauhou and Waiea transfer stations were left with no other choice than to transport that refuse miles north to the Kealakehe transfer station, resulting in long lines there.
Those looking to rid green waste were forced to head even farther north to the West Hawaii Sanitary Landfill as the Kealakehe green waste site was also shuttered.
“When we don’t have enough people to come into work, we just don’t have enough people to open,” said Environmental Management Director William Kucharski on Monday afternoon.
Kucharski did not have the number of employees absent Monday, but said closures are only implemented when management cannot call in enough employees to keep all 23 facilities around the island open. Employees, who are unionized, also cannot be forced to work overtime.
In order to keep the bigger facilities open, the county closes facilities that serve smaller communities, such as Keauhou and Waiea, in order to staff and keep the centralized Kealakehe station open, he said. Keei transfer station isn’t open on Mondays.
“The bad news on that is if they’re small, that means they’re open only a few days a week and if we shutdown for one day, we’re shutting down a third of the service,” he said.
But a solution is being sought. Kucharski noted ideas include additional positions or even a different job description, such as an on-call person.
“We’re taking another look at our staffing needs and some time (in the future) we’re going to be providing the mayor and the council with estimates of what we’re going to need to keep all of these stations open,” Kucharski said.
Staffing shortages have plagued the department for the better of the year, prompting the sudden closures.
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