Fees raise concern at council
By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
City Council Chairman Gary Okino's proposal to charge all households $8 a month for trash collection will face strenuous opposition from at least one colleague.
"I will oppose that with every fiber of my being," Councilwoman Barbara Marshall said yesterday after Okino told the Budget Committee he intended to introduce an amendment to the Harris administration's mandatory recycling plan.
In addition, all members of the committee expressed concerns about a bill that would allow the city parks director to set user fees for new sports facilities. The committee took no action on the bill.
Under the administration's curbside recycling plan, one trash collection a week would be replaced by alternating green-waste and recycling pickups, with an optional second trash collection for $8 a month.
Okino intends to propose an across-the-board monthly fee that would continue twice-weekly trash pickups for everyone, arguing that it would prevent more illegal dumping and spare the administration the added work of monitoring who has paid for the optional collection.
In addition, he said, the fee would make trash collection more equitable. While the city provides free pickup for 160,000 households, another 75,000 pay private operators to pick up their refuse, as do most businesses, according to Okino.
"Everyone pays the same taxes, but we're only providing this service to a portion," Okino said. The $8 monthly fee would be charged to households that now have free curbside trash pickup.
But Marshall encouraged council members to not even consider a fee for curbside trash pickup. "I think it's a public safety issue," she said. "I think we are in a situation where we are in the tropics and we need to have garbage pickup at least once a week."
She said people strapped for cash are not going to come up with $8 a month, creating a health and safety issue when trash stacks up.
Marshall and other council members also expressed concerns about a bill that would allow the administration to charge user fees for the city's sports facilities at Central O'ahu Regional Park, the Waipi'o Peninsula Soccer Park and the Hans L'Orange Baseball Facility.
Budget Committee Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi recommended that the committee defer the bill because the hearing called to clarify the administration's intent led only to more concerns from council members.
Among Marshall's concerns was language that would allow fees to be set for special events at other parks. "I have a real concern about that being too broad-based," she said. She said she was also leery of giving the parks director blanket authorization to set fees for any facility on the island.
Deputy Managing Director Malcolm Tom responded, "We share your concern and we welcome any guidance about how to narrow the broadness."
However, when Marshall suggested that the administration set up a fee schedule specifying types of events at specific parks, Tom said he would prefer that the details be listed in regulations, not in a fee ordinance.
Councilman Rod Tam suggested that the administration define which types of special events would be charged the fee.
Tom said the fees were meant to apply to activities such as league play, concerts and plays, and not to gatherings such as baby lu'aus or anniversary parties.
Councilman Charles Djou wondered why the fees were necessary when the administration has said the operating costs at the sports facilities have turned out to be less than expected. "If the costs are within expectations, why do we need this bill here?" he asked. "It's just a means of sucking out revenues, yes?"
Tom responded, "Yes," noting that international and national organizations have requested use of the soccer park and tennis complex. "We would like to be able recover some of our costs from those who don't normally pay taxes," Tom said.
Okino suggested that O'ahu residents be exempted from the fees.