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Abandoned vehicles litter roadways

June 1, 2016 - 12:05am

HILO — Abandoned vehicles littering the sides of Mamalahoa Highway and elsewhere throughout the island are slowly disappearing, thanks to new contracts inked last month by Hawaii County.

The news is a huge relief to Shirlee Shumway of Holualoa. Over the past months, she’s seen cars appear on the roadside, followed some months later by a county tag indicating they are abandoned vehicles, and then the long wait for them to be removed, punctuated by individuals stripping the more valuable parts from the vehicles under cover of night.

“For a while the midnight marauders have been quiet but the vehicles once again are being left on the roads,” she said Tuesday. “It takes three months before the AV sign is posted and usually by this time the late night auto supply has done its work.”

According to Shumway, one vehicle, covered in a silver tarp, has been on the makai side of Mamalahoa Highway, just north of Kona Coffee Villas, for 10 months to a year. It has no engine and is not parked on private property, she said, adding the tarp is old and is being held in place by lava rocks.

Shumway has had enough. She’s called Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha and the county Department of Environmental Management, and talked with business owners and neighbors about the problem.

“I’m just hoping they get the message and start doing better,” she said of the county. “It’s just so silly that they sit so long. … It takes so much time to get anything done here.”

Plummeting scrap metal prices and the loss of markets in China over the past few years contributed to a less-than-enthusiastic response to county recycling efforts. But county Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd said Tuesday that new contracts with haulers are moving the cars off the roadside and onto county lots.

The vehicles collected by a contracted hauler are sold at twice-annual auctions or they’re held at the county’s two vehicle scrapyards to be sent off-island for recycling.

“We try to recover our costs that way,” Leithead Todd said.

Haulers get between $58 and $75 per vehicle, plus $4.50 to $7.50 per mile to haul the abandoned vehicles off the roadsides.

On public roadways abandoned automobiles may be removed by calling the Hawaii Police Department at 935-3311. Provide the location and description of the vehicle. Only the Police Department can initiate the abandoned vehicle removal process.

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