HILO — The county has instituted an amnesty program for owners seeking to get rid of their unwanted vehicle.
Through Oct. 31, the county will pay the $680 disposal fee for one vehicle per owner. The owner — who must present the title and fill out an application form — is responsible for the towing and removal costs from the vehicle’s location to the designated scrap metal recycler. The county will pay only the disposal costs directly to the county’s existing scrap metal contractors.
The contractor, Big Island Scrap Metal, has locations in Kailua-Kona and Keaau. The application and more information on the program can be found at http://www.hawaiizerowaste.org/recycle/automotive. Registered vehicle owners are encouraged to submit their applications early, because there’s a limited number of disposal appointments.
The new program is financed through the $12 disposal fee vehicle owners pay on their annual automobile registration. No property tax money is used for the program, said Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski.
The amnesty program is just one component of a three-prong approach to ridding roadsides of unsightly and dangerous abandoned vehicles.
A second component is a county bill, Bill 154, specifically authorizing Environmental Management to remove abandoned vehicles from private roads, such as those in Puna and Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. The county stopped providing that service March 1, after realizing it had no legal authority to do so.
Bill 154 faces its final reading at the County Council meeting Wednesday, where it’s expected to pass and be signed by the mayor. There has been no opposition to the bill among the public or council since it was introduced.
“Everyone’s been supportive of this,” Kucharski said.
HOVE residents have been especially vocal about the need to remove vehicles.
“This is wrong. Our roads are privately funded but they are open to the public and the police,” Linda Schutt told the County Council. “We pay the fee when registering our vehicles that goes into the vehicle disposal fund. … The abandoned vehicles are piling up and this is not acceptable.”
A third component, a state bill, has passed and been signed by the governor. The measure gives the county more wiggle room in how it handles abandoned vehicles, while requiring that counties take abandoned vehicles into custody within 10 business days.
To be considered abandoned, a vehicle must first be tagged, then after at least 24 hours, it can be cited and considered abandoned if it’s still there. Police are the only ones authorized to tag the vehicles, so the process hangs up when officers have more pressing crimes to pursue.
“Legally, it’s not abandoned until it’s cited,” Kucharski said. “That’s when the clock starts ticking.”
Kucharski is working with the Hawaii Police Department to see if county environmental staff can help get abandoned vehicles identified and tagged. If the Police Department doesn’t have the authority to delegate that function, it may require a change to the county code, an issue that’s currently under investigation.
To report an abandoned vehicle, call the police department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311.