KAILUA-KONA — Mayor Harry Kim vowed Friday to get to the bottom of why 10% of Hawaii Island’s emergency warning sirens are inoperable.
“This is totally unacceptable,” said Kim, who oversaw Hawaii County Civil Defense for 16 years, and as mayor he said he still oversees the department. “It’s very disappointing to hear. I don’t care if it (the bids) came in over budget, we need to find the money. This is inexcusable.”
As of the Oct. 1 test, nine of the 92 sirens installed in communities around the island were not working, West Hawaii Today first reported on Oct. 6. Nonfunctional sites included Napoopoo and Punaluu, areas previously impacted by tsunami in 2011 and 1975, respectively. Napoopoo has been out for at least four months.
Tasked with repairing and replacing the sirens on Hawaii Island, as with all islands across the state, is the State of Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA). A contract for repairs outside the scope of the agency has not been in place for such work on the Big Island since the end of June when a two-year contract held by Commercial Electrical Inc. expired.
Though the agency put out a request for bids in May, HI-EMA said in its first response to West Hawaii Today on Tuesday that it did not award the contract because the bids opened in July came in over budget.
The only bid submitted, $2.1 million by Commercial Electrical Inc., however, was $143,382 less than the previous two-year contract held by the same company, according to the July 11 bid results.
HI-EMA Telecommunications Branch Deputy Chief Ryan Hirae said that day the agency was soliciting individual bids to install and maintain sirens on the Big Island; however, that process meant nothing will be done until the end of the year, or longer. A check on the state’s procurement site indicates there has not been any new solicitation for bids.
On Friday afternoon, after West Hawaii Today reached to Kim regarding the lack of emergency warning sirens in Big Island communities, HI-EMA changed its stance, saying the bids were still being evaluated.
An agency spokeswoman said the Department of Accounting and General Services has not come to a decision on the bids. In addition, there is no timetable at the moment for when that decision could come.
In the meantime, nearly 10% of Hawaii Island sirens remain out of service and unable to warn residents of an impending emergency.
Kim on Friday said the bureaucratic process to get funding for such an essential service needs to be eliminated and the funding to fix the sirens needs to be found immediately. He added he would be in touch with the head of HI-EMA to find out what is going on.
“I promise I will get to the bottom of this,” the mayor said.