Deal Reached On Hawaii Telescope Protest Policing Costs

Apr 24, 2020

HILO — The Hawaii County Council has accepted a $5.3 million agreement with the state for reimbursement of law enforcement overtime costs during demonstrations against the Big Island giant telescope project.

The council approved the deal Wednesday after months of delays and revisions, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Thursday.

The amount equals overtime expenses incurred by the Hawaii County Police Department and county mayor's office because of increased traffic enforcement on Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Demonstrators blocked an access road in a months-long protest against the Thirty Meter Telescope Project on the summit of Mauna Kea, the state's highest mountain.

Telescope opponents have said the project, estimated to cost $2.4 billion, will desecrate land considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians.

A previous version of the agreement brought before the council in December would have reimbursed the county up to $10 million, but the council rejected the offer because of ambiguity in the terms.

The offer included a stipulation that the agreement would last for five years and surplus funds would be used for unclear purposes.

Councilors rejected the deal over concerns the extended agreement could force county police to provide security for telescope construction convoys or other projects.

The approved agreement accepts the exact sum of overtime costs incurred between July 15 and Dec. 31 and does not include a five-year stipulation.

Any changes to the agreement must go before the council for approval, County Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela said.

Council Vice Chairwoman Karen Eoff called the extended reimbursement negotiation "a good exercise in public participation."