HONOLULU (KHON2) — It’s been six months since a Maili couple received a $18,000 bill from Hawaiian Electric Company to cover the streetlights in their neighborhood. KHON2 was first to report the issue back in February when Desha-Ann Kealoha and her husband said their home was the only one to receive this bill. They said nowhere in their mortgage documents does it say they signed to buy the whole street.

The mystery of who the street belongs to is one HECO has been trying to solve since 2020. While there’s still no solution to this day, the Kealohas are now getting closer to finding one.

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On Wednesday, Aug. 10, the Kealohas, their neighbor and HECO testified to the Honolulu City Council about the street in question: Halemaluhia Place. Who is liable for it? Who told HECO to turn on the lights? And most importantly, who should get the electricity bill?

“This is such a well known issue in Hawaii that a lot of private roads are still private, and they’re trying to get the state to get ownership,” said Desha. “But one of the other council members brought up the fact that there is ordinances and standards that the road has to meet before it can be dedicated over to the City, which kind of came up in controversy as well because it came up that the owner, which is us, should have to pay to bring the road up to standards before the City can take over.”

In February 2022, a couple who owns a home on Halemaluhia Place said they received a letter from HECO saying that they owed almost $18,000. (Courtesy: Desha-Ann Kealoha)

Desha said her neighbors became aware of the issue when they called HECO to repair a streetlight that went out, and HECO allegedly told them it was a private road, so they couldn’t repair it. Desha said she and her husband weren’t aware of any of this when they bought their home.

Initially, HECO believed that this street had been dedicated to the City & County of Honolulu. However, in a correspondence dated Nov. 16, 2020, the City denied it.

That meant sending the bill to the Kealohas.

Read the letter below:

After KHON2’s story was published in February, Desha said she reached out to Honolulu Council Member Andria Tupola for help.

“[She] really pushed for everything to be brought to light,” said Desha, “so they had an attorney work on investigating the whole history and what went down between the original developers and [the Department of Planning and Permitting] and then all that stuff happened.”

In July, Tupola introduced Resolution 22-169 — relating to Halemaluhia Place — requesting the City to accept the dedication of the street, or in the event that the City is unable to accept the dedication, to take the steps necessary to acquire the street.

On Wednesday, Aug. 2, the resolution was adopted, however, it does not mean that the City now owns the street. It just means that the DPP can now begin the process of looking into the matter.

While the Kealohas won’t have to pay the five-figure bill, HECO still needs to figure out who to send payments to. HECO sent KHON2 the following statement:

“As we’ve said previously, we aren’t seeking payment on the past due amount. We’re committed to working with the owners of the street to resolve the matter. The city is in the process of considering taking over the street and we are following those proceedings.”

Hawaiian Electric Company

Desha shared that there are steps out there that the attorney thinks they could take, and Tupola will be exploring which one to keep pushing this issue forward.

“And then it comes with our street being neglected sometimes,” said Desha, “because our neighbor told us that there was a point in time for like a year in a half there was no lights because the City wouldn’t repair it because it was a private road.”

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“We have kids and our neighbors have kids, so it’s pretty important to have streetlights, but not at my expense for the whole road,” Desha continued. “We’re just really hoping that it gets off our hands.”