KAILUA-KONA — Need to shed a few thousand pounds? For the next month and a half, Hawaii County is willing to help you do so for a steal.
Starting today and ending on April 30, the Department of Environmental Management Derelict/Abandoned Vehicle Section is accepting applications into a short-term program to pick up the disposal fees for any resident wanting to rid themselves of their rides. Those who apply are still required to pick up the towing fees associated with disposal.
The catalyst behind the program is to limit abandoned vehicles on Hawaii Island roadsides, which DEM Director Bill Kucharski described as “big litter.”
“We think this is a good deal,” Kucharski said.
The director is correct in his assessment, though even more so when it comes to West Hawaii vehicles. The average price per disposal on the west side is $675, while the going rate on the east side is $297.
Kucharski said the cost disparity is due to the bidding process. The county is required to bid out all contracts and accepts the lowest bid that also meets all stipulated requirements. In West Hawaii, only one bidder qualified. In East Hawaii, there were two.
Those individuals who take the county up on its offer will also avoid a potential fine of $1,000, the penalty for littering the roadside with an abandoned vehicle.
The county has a towing budget of $300,000 for fiscal year 2018-19 and a disposal budget of $600,000 for the same duration. The disposal budget remained the same from the previous year, though the towing budget increased by 50 percent, or $100,000.
That is likely connected to a new statewide mandate that abandoned vehicles be towed within 10 days. However, the process of defining what constitutes an abandoned vehicle, and the actual ticketing and towing, requires the county to follow strict protocol to avoid violating personal property rights. Kucharski said DEM has towed more than 12,000 vehicles since 2012.
The county offered a similar short-term program from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31 of last year. Kucharski said 225 people applied, with 199 actually dropping their vehicles off for disposal.
“We sort of get torn because once you have purchased a vehicle, you have a responsibility to follow the laws — that is to dispose of that (vehicle) appropriately,” Kucharski said. “We want to help and make this possible and reduce the number of vehicles illegally disposed of on the side of the road. On the other hand, we don’t want to take over everybody’s responsibility to do the right thing.”