$4 million and counting: The costs of state-county response to TMT protest site

Always Investigating

Spending on law enforcement related to the Thirty Meter Telescope protests at Mauna Kea has topped $4 million, Always Investigating has found in KHON2’s ongoing tally of costs and impacts there. Hawaii County also got a letter today from the governor outlining conditions for reimbursement of their police efforts at the mountain.

The state is not providing a centralized cost tally for Mauna Kea law enforcement, so we continue to piece it together, and it is nearing $4.1 million.

Hawaii County’s tab was last reported around a quarter-million dollars through mid-July, but we learned today it has since spiked several million dollars, county councilmembers were told late this afternoon

“I was expecting a bump from our $258,000 last meeting but here we are now at $3.2 million, that is a big number,” said Hawaii County Councilmember Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder.

“Last time the $258,000 was basically for one day,” Hawaii County finance director Deanna Sako told the council, “so this is cumulative, and the payroll is thru July 31, the days work thru July 31, and the other costs are thru yesterday.”

“Our total costs are $3,271,966 for all departments — overtime and other costs,” Sako clarified directly to Always Investigating. “The majority — $3,095,245 — is for police.” (See full accounting in the image posted at the end of this story.)

Hawaii County Police Chief Paul Ferreira told the council they had to go to 12-hour shifts islandwide in July. They’ve cut that back some but still have more than 20 officers assigned to the protest area now.

Always Investigating also found out the Attorney General’s office has spent $300,000 spent so far on airfare, vehicles and fuel for multiple agencies, more than $150,000 for equipment and supplies, and another $166,000 in overtime just for Attorney General staff. Those figures do not yet include other state staff such as Sheriff and DLNR costs.

These new figures are on top of the more than $160,000 the Honolulu Police Department says it cost them in overtime, travel and vehicle shipping.

Maui Police Department gave KHON updated numbers this afternoon saying they spent more than $100,000 on overtime, travel and vehicle shipping.

All of these figures so far add up to nearly $4.1 million, with many more bills still to be calculated.

Always Investigating found out the Hawaii County Council’s finance committee chairperson Maile Medeiros David got a letter from Gov. David Ige this morning outlining conditions for paybacks, stating reimbursements to Hawaii County Police Department will continue “so long as HCPD remains committed to maintaining control of the pertinent roadways,” adding HCPD is critical to getting access to the mountain for current astronomers and to “ensuring TMT may engage in the lawfully permitted construction of its telescope.”

“Is there an agreement, a written agreement with the state, that memorializes what we are going to get reimbursed for, and what the understanding is for this arrangement aside from this letter?” Medeiros David asked Sako at the council hearing. Sako responded: “There have been several emails that have gone back and forth with the A.G.’s office and I believe they are in the process of memorializing that into an agreement.”

In response to the letter, on behalf of the County, Sako told KHON2: “We continue to work with the Attorney General’s office who have promised their financial support.”

We’ve also asked governor for clarification on the letter setting conditions. we’ll follow up when we get it.

Councilmembers are inviting the public to weigh in on costs and the governor’s letter, at the next committee meeting, where another updated tally will also be provided to the council. Councilmember David told KHON2 on Tuesday evening that “due to further inquiries and requests for more information relating to ongoing estimated costs, the matter was postponed to our Sept. 3 Finance Committee Meeting in Hilo. The postponement would allow time for additional requested information to be provided and also give the  public an opportunity to participate and comment.”

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