KAILUA-KONA — The Hawaii County Department of Water Supply is proposing to roll back its power cost charge come the beginning of February.
Currently at $1.94 per 1,000 gallons, the PCC was last changed on Aug. 1, when it was raised from $1.88. DWS presented the reduction proposal to the Water Board at its monthly meeting Tuesday, where a recommendation to hold a public hearing on Jan. 22 on the decrease was accepted.
DWS evaluates the PCC a couple times a year and bases its rates solely on the department’s “actual power cost and water consumption,” according to an email from a DWS representative.
Thus, the price of electricity only impacts the PCC to a degree. Electrical costs typically trend upward and Hawaii Electric Light Co. has recently asked for a rate hike. If granted, that would impact the next PCC evaluation assuming the department used the same amount of electricity, or more electricity, to power its equipment. Just the possibility of a looming HELCO rate hike, however, has no effect.
The PCC was $1.73 as of Aug. 1, 2017. It fell to $1.62 in December of that year.
Those who wish to offer public testimony on the proposed reduction may do so before the next Water Board meeting at 9:45 on Jan. 22. The meeting will be convened at the DWS Operations Center conference room, located at 889 Leilani St. in Hilo.
North Kona Update
As of Monday, Honokohau deep well has been pumping water in West Hawaii. It was finished ahead of schedule, which originally slated the completion of repairs for early January.
Repairs are underway at the Hualalai site and DWS expects those will be complete between January-February. Once back online, only two of the district’s 14 water sources will remain inoperative.
Bids for repairs at Palani Deep Well have yet to be advertised but are set for award sometime in early 2019, according to an email from DWS representatives.
The deep well at Waiaha remains out of commission and there is no repair or bid schedule yet in place. The site was knocked offline in the summer of 2017 after a botched extraction resulted in equipment being lost down the well.
Officials said at the Water Board meeting in November that litigation against contractor Derrick’s Well Drilling and Pump Services is a possibility in the Waiaha matter. In the meantime, DWS continues to evaluate its options, which in the past have been stated as digging an entirely new well or reducing capacity and pumping from the original site.
DWS Manager-Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto has been at the helm of the department throughout the entirety of the North Kona water crisis.
The situation began almost two years ago but could reasonably be considered at its conclusion with the reintroduction of Honokohau earlier this week and the end of repairs at Hualalai within sight — assuming no problems occur at either deep well and no other water sources fall offline.
Okamoto and Deputy Kawika Uyehara received raises of 8 percent in 2018 and were each awarded salary increases again for 2019 at Tuesday’s Water Board meeting. Okamoto is in line for a 5 percent raise that will bring his salary to roughly $137,000. Uyehara’s raise made his pay equivalent to 95 percent of Okamoto’s, meaning he’ll make around $130,000 next year.
Unavailable for comment Tuesday, Okamoto on Wednesday emailed West Hawaii Today a response to the board’s decision.
“I am humbled that the Water Board felt it appropriate to take the action it did and remain committed to continual improvements within the department to better serve our customers and community,” he wrote. “We are proud of the dedication of our staff who work hard to maintain a high level of service with minimal disruptions and provide high quality potable drinking water to our customers.”