Committee discussion focuses on Maui water system


WAILUKU, Maui — A Maui County official wants to raise millions of dollars for water system improvements by targeting waterlines, pumps and reservoirs to supply water to drought-plagued Upcountry residents, ranchers and farmers.

Department of Water Supply Director Dave Taylor’s plan is to raise annual rates for water consumption by about 6 percent and then continue charging more than $12,000 for a new water meter. His plan would raise that amount $2,000 each year until it reaches $20,000, The Maui News reported.

The idea is to raise enough money to pay off bonds for $30 million to $40 million in water system improvements.

Taylor discussed the concept Tuesday night for the County Council Budget and Finance Committee.

Residents say the cost should be shifted to the county general fund.

Rancher Brendan Balthazar of Diamond B Ranch said Taylor should consider alternatives to his approach. He said the county could float bonds for water infrastructure, like it would for park improvements.

“Water should be elevated to the most important thing,” Balthazar said.

Another rancher, Edwin Ferreira, said if water meters cost $20,000 or more, “it will surely prevent my family members, my grandchildren, from ever enjoying their own piece of property.”

“(Then) my grandchildren cannot afford to live on the acreage that I have,” he said. “It’s really sad.”

Mike White, chairman of the Budget Committee, said lawmakers would consider a $10 monthly fee on everyone to pay for new water meters.