Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami delivers third ‘State of the County’ address

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Kauai Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami delivered his third State of the County Address via video on Monday.

Kawakami addressed last year’s accomplishments before discussing the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 Budget and upcoming budget priorities.

“As we set the stage for a new operational year, it is our essential workers, our hometown heroes, who have helped to set a foundation for all of us to now collectively rebuild and rise up,” Kawakami said in his speech on March 15.

In his address, Kawakami highlighted last year’s accomplishments, which included investing heavily in technology in order to shift the way business is conducted. Offering customers free Wi-fi on all buses was an example the mayor used as one of the improvements.

“Riders can now check emails, chat with friends or scroll their news feed while riding on the Kauai Bus!” Kawakami said. “By the end of March, we will upgrade all of our buses with voice announcements and digital signage.”

A Kauai Bus mobile app is scheduled to launch later this year, which will show a live map of bus routes and real-time status of buses, along with text notifications.

Another digital service the mayor recognized was “Kupuna Hour” at the DMV, where those 65 years and older can walk in without an appointment and be served. Wait times and long lines were also cut down by implementing DMV kiosks across the island for vehicle registration renewal.

Watch this full address below:

Other accomplishments the mayor included were: 

  • Restricting the use/sale of polystyrene foam food service containers, effective January 1, 2022. 
  • Prohibiting disposable plastics on county property that began on January 1, 2021. 
  • Making West Kauai Community the first zoning district in Hawaii that incorporates climate change and sea-level rise exposure data into an ordinance, and ensures any development along the  coastal edge will be subject to mitigation or preventative measures.
  • Launching a website for the Waimea 400 Master Plan, which refers to the 417-acre parcel the county purchased in 2018. 
  • Completing a new transitional housing project – Ke Alaula on Pua Loke – an innovative community with wraparound services managed by Women in Need. 
  • Completing Waimea Huakai – a 35 multi-family affordable housing development by the ‘Ahe Group, which is now fully occupied with renters. 
  • Repaving roughly 42 lane miles of road, roughly 10% of total county roadways.

“We are pleased to present a budget that proposes no layoffs and no furloughs for our workforce,” Kawakami said. “And it proposes no fee or additional tax rate increases to our taxpayers.”

The proposed budget includes an operating budget of $243 million and a Capital Improvement Budget of $24.3 million.

According to Kawakami, Real Property Tax revenues remain consistent in the upcoming year at roughly $157.2 million, and the General Excise Tax revenue is expected to remain stable.

Upcoming budget priorities include to: 

  • Continue to support major infrastructure projects following the historic 2018 flood.
  • Continue to prioritize repaving roads and reconstructing bridges, including Hanapepe Bridge repairs; Kawaihau, Mailihuna, and Haua‘ala Road Complete Streets; Kīpū and Kōloa Bridge repairs; Moi Road sidewalks; the repaving of Olohena, Kukui and Ulu roads; as well as Safe Routes to School projects at Koloa and King Kaumuali’i schools. 
  • Focus on wastewater infrastructure upgrades that are long overdue, which include various projects in Wailua, Līhu‘e, and on the west side.
  • Start the process of vertically expanding the Kekaha Landfill, which will add another four years of capacity. This also means an extension of the Kekaha Host Community Benefits Grant Program.

Kawakami ended his speech by thanking multiple agencies, including the Department of Health for their efforts to manage COVID-19 cases, contract tracing and the vaccine program.

As of Monday, more than 30,000 vaccines have been administered to Kauai residents.

“Our county has one of the lowest per capita case rates of COVID-19, and among the best vaccine distribution programs in the nation,” said Kawakami. “I am incredibly grateful for your efforts and sacrifices, and the ways you cared for and supported one another.”

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