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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 10, 2001

New group joins fray over Kaua'i utility sale

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser KauaÎi Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — A new citizens group led by veteran Democratic Party activist Turk Tokita is arguing against county acquisition of Kaua'i Electric.

Tokita has formed Kaua'i People Power and is backing a community cooperative's purchase of the utility.

Both Tokita and Gregg Gardiner, Kaua'i Island Utility Co-op chairman, insist there is no connection between the two organizations.

"I'm not sure what's motivating him, but we're pleased to have any support we can get," Gardiner said.

Tokita said he dislikes county ownership because of the likelihood of political interference in operating the utility, and he said he likes the democratically run organization a co-op would bring.

"I think the electric cooperative has many benefits for the people of Kaua'i. It would be operated like a credit union, with a board of directors elected by the members, and they serve without pay," he said.

After the state Public Utilities Commission rejected the co-op's original purchase proposal, in part because it was too expensive, the group negotiated a new purchase at a much lower price, Gardiner said. But one proviso — that the county support the project — has prevented its submission to the commission.

The county is hiring consultants to appraise the utility and to consider the benefits of county ownership and has not supported the co-op proposal.

Tokita said he fears that a county takeover could at least three years to complete, while a co-op sale could be done quickly.

"Like most people on Kaua'i, we're in search of lower rates, and we want to return power to the people," Tokita said.