New site planned for junk vehicles

  • A car is abandoned in a lot in Pahoa on Jan. 21. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

Hawaii County officials within the next two years want to construct a building in Hilo to store abandoned vehicles.

A draft environmental impact statement released on April 8 had a finding of no significant impact for the 5,000-square-foot facility, which is planned for a 13.86-acre parcel of state-owned land between the Hilo Transfer Station and the now-closed South Hilo Sanitary Landfill on Hoolaulima Road.

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There already is a lot there where commercial vendors tow abandoned vehicles, but the need has outgrown the fenced-in outdoor lot.

“It’s a program that started to just take care of things, and over the years it got bigger and bigger and bigger,” said Gene Quiamas, deputy chief of the county’s Department of Environmental Management Solid Waste Division. “And the temporary facilities that we had are just not working out anymore. The Hilo site is prone to theft and vandalism. It’s become a parts place for people looking for parts to fix their cars.”

The likeliest targets, according to Quiamas, are the nicer vehicles on the lot. The thefts make the vehicles less desirable at the county’s sealed-bid automobile auctions.

Quiamas said the majority of the abandoned vehicles aren’t auctionable and end up being recycled.

In addition to floor space for 25 auctionable vehicles, the new facility, a pre-engineered metal building, would have additional space for four staff offices, a reception area, restrooms, a conference/lunchroom and other administrative spaces. The existing outdoor abandoned vehicle lot would be expanded to hold about 100 vehicles and would include parking spaces for staff and public.

“Right now, we can fit 50 if we want to have a good circulation space which, a lot of times, we need,” Quiamas said. “And if we stack it so you pretty much got to move a car to move another car, we can push it to 75. And the way we would like to run this thing, when the vendor comes in, he wouldn’t have to move anything to park something — meaning the circulation space and the turnaround space are not being taken by the vehicles.”

Additional improvements would include a paved access driveway, pavement for the abandoned vehicle lot, the installation of a waterline from Hoolaulima Road to the new building, other utility connections, additional security fencing for the expanded lot, and a surveillance system.

Also in the plans are an individual wastewater system with a septic tank and soil absorption system for the treatment and disposal of wastewater effluent.

The design also calls for a photovoltaic system, although it’s not clear whether the facility will be fully powered by solar energy.

“I think we will flesh all that out during design,” Quiamas said. “We would like, at a very minimum, to have it for a supplement. But if the dollar amount lines up correctly, I would, myself, like it to be fully energy self-sufficient.”

The estimated price tag of the project is $3 million, financed by county funds with no outlay of federal money.

“I think it’s time, with the expectation that the public has, that the abandoned vehicles be towed away almost instantaneously and that we do something that’s more centralized and can be more organized in its response to the problem,” Quiamas said.

The 30-day public comment period ends May 6. The draft EA can be found at bit.ly/36fXBgX.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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