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Landfill lawyers’ money approved: Council OKs another $200K for contract negotiations

  • MANSOUR

  • INABA

Contract negotiations with Waste Management Inc. already resulted in some savings, a county official told the County Council on Wednesday.

Environmental Management Director Ramzi Mansour said the county is already seeing savings on charges for tonnage and target percentages of trash to be delivered to the West Hawaii landfill since contract negotiations began in 2019. Mansour appeared before the council to request approval to add $200,000 more to the $300,000 the county already spent on outside legal consultant to handle contract negotiations.

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“Definitely, it is very important for us to continue with the same law office so we can negotiate, to have continuity moving forward,” Mansour said.

The council unanimously approved the additional money.

The contract, a lopsided agreement with guaranteed tonnages and no termination date, was approved by a former council and signed almost 30 years ago by then Mayor Stephen Yamashiro. The county paid Waste Management $2.9 million in fiscal year 1993-94, a figure that escalated to $5.5 million in 2010-11 and has spiked to $12.2 million this year.

By contrast, the entire Environmental Management Department’s budget is $37 million.

“It will be money well spent to try to renegotiate an old contract,” Mansour said.

Environmental Management officials predict the Puuanahulu landfill has enough room for 150 years worth of garbage, even with the entire island’s rubbish being sent there.

Corporation Counsel Elizabeth Strance, responding to questions from North Kona Councilman Holeka Inaba, said her office wouldn’t be able to handle the job on its own.

“We looked and discussed whether it was something we could handle in-house and we don’t think we can given the breadth of this,” Strance said.

“Is this going to be enough to get the contract done for sure?” Inaba asked.

That’s unclear, Mansour said. Nor could he or Strance put a timeline on the negotiations.

“This negotiation, if we don’t come to terms, it may lead to the path of litigation,” Mansour said.

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Telephone messages left with Waste Management’s Hawaii media contact have not been returned.

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

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