HILO — Two county programs to remove abandoned vehicles are being declared a success, with 331 junk cars either removed or being scheduled to be removed so far.
That’s according to Environmental Management Director Bill Kucharski, who said Friday the resumption of picking up vehicles on private roadways, coupled with an amnesty program that subsidized disposal costs for those who towed their own vehicles to the scrapyard, has proved a win-win for the county and communities.
The two programs are part of a three-prong approach to remove unsightly and dangerous vehicles from island roadways. The third component is a new state law giving the county more wiggle room in how it handles abandoned vehicles, while requiring that counties take abandoned vehicles into custody within 10 business days.
A $12 fee on annual vehicle registrations pays for the programs.
“It’s good to be able to use the money that we collected for the program to get these vehicles off the road and properly handled,” Kucharski said. “This is a good use of these funds.”
The programs are so popular the county put out a request for qualifications from towing companies to temporarily supplement pickups on the west side of the island. The RFQ closed Wednesday, but Kucharski doesn’t think additional contractors will be needed, as the current contractors have picked up the pace.
In the amnesty program, the county pays 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 recyclers. The county pays only the disposal costs directly to the county’s existing scrap metal contractors.
The amnesty program ended Sunday, but Kucharski said it may be resumed in the future. There were 221 applications for amnesty, with 130 scheduled for delivery and the remainder in the process of being scheduled, he said.
The second component is a new county ordinance 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. Now that legal authority has been established, police have tagged 65 vehicles in Puna and 45 in Ka‘u for towing.
The cleanup has not gone unnoticed.
Heidi Jaworski, Ocean View block watch coordinator, said the community association just met Thursday evening, and everyone remarked about fewer abandoned vehicles in the neighborhood.
“We’re very happy with the progress they’ve been making so far,” said Jaworski. “We’ve seen a definite improvement. They are going away and it’s awesome.”
More needs to be done, however, said Jaworski and Kailua-Kona resident Shirlee Shumway. Jaworski questions why the county’s $680 disposal fee to the scrapyard is so high, compared to the $150-$190 she would pay if she did it herself.
Shumway hopes for a more responsible public.
“We have in West Hawaii a strange mixture of Aloha Aina. They push ‘Love the Land’ but do not apply it to themselves,” Shumway said. “It is not the visitors that do the heavy duty dumping. Plastic containers, straws, bento containers and the AVs are eyesores and pollutants for sure but we must continue the AV battle until residents finally get the message that there will always be trash on the side of our highways as long as there are inconsiderate people. The crusade I tried to pursue has helped somewhat. But we must be vigilant.”