Maui News

Commission Denies Mayor Authority Over Fire Chief

October 25, 2011, 7:34 AM HST
* Updated October 28, 1:49 PM
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By Maui Now staff

Maui Charter Commission members (from right to left): Artemio Constantino Baxa (Makawao), Susan Ann Moikeha (Kula) , David Paul DeLeon (Haiku), Yuki Lei Kashiwa Sugimura (Kula) , and Frank Randolph DeRego, Jr. (Kahului). Maui Now photo.

The Maui Charter Commission on Monday advanced a proposal to shift the county’s current annual budget to a biannual budget.

Commissioners said the shift would give administrators and department heads more time to develop and carry out budget plans.

Commissioners voted unanimously to move the item to a draft proposal stage.

The commission also voted to advance a proposal seeking the establishment of an Office of the County Auditor.

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Commissioner Wayne Hedani said that hopefully an auditor would generate some savings for the county.

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Fellow commissioner Susan Moikeha supported the condition that a commission would have the hiring and firing authority over the auditor to maintain transparency.

The item moves on to a draft proposal stage after a 9 to 1 vote, with the lone “no” vote coming from commissioner Artemio Baxa.

Much of the Monday’s meeting focused on proposals relating to the Maui Department of Fire and Public Safety.

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A proposal that would shift the Ocean Safety division from the Parks and Recreation Department to the Maui Department of Public Safety moves on to the draft proposal stage after gaining unanimous approval yesterday.

Both Fire Chief Jeff Murray and Ocean Safety Officer Archie Kalepa voiced support for the move, but concur that a plan needs to be established to effectively carry out the transition.

Chief Murray said he wanted to establish the department’s accreditation first, a process that takes anywhere from 18 months to three years.

He said he also wants a plan in place with input from the unions; and details from the Parks department on its budget, best practices, and rules and regulations to effectively prepare for the shift.

Kalepa compared the current structure of having the Ocean Safety Division under Parks, to playing for a football team, “that has a basketball coach that’s never played football in his life.”

He noted that Ocean Safety is a 911 entity that is required to respond to emergency incidents, and already works closely with the Fire Department.  “Eight out of 10 times, we’re the first on scene,” said Kalepa.

“When it comes to budget time,” Kalepa said, “we’re fighting with weed eaters and lawn mowers, and trying to save jet skis.”

The commission plans to prepare a draft proposal that will include a transitional period as a friendly amendment, to allow the department time to prepare a plan.

In other action, the Charter Commission members removed proposals that would have given the mayor the appointing authority over the fire chief instead of the Fire & Public Safety Commission; and removed a separate  proposal relating to the establishment of volunteer firefighters.

A proposal to change the name of the Department of Fire & Public Safety to the Maui County Fire Department advanced, in an 8-2 vote, with supporting members saying the change minimizes confusion, and more accurately reflects the duties of the department.

The next Charter Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 14, 2011, at 10 a.m. in the Maui Planning Conference Room.

When commissioners reconvene, they will resume discussion relating to the Department of Environmental Management and the inclusion of sustainability as one of its functions. The Charter Commission is also expected to take up items relating to the Cost of Government Commission.

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