Watchdog group questions need to fast-track Lanai utility transfer

Published On: Jun 21 2012 08:27:16 PM HST   Updated On: Jun 22 2012 09:05:23 AM HST

The request to transfer Lanai island’s utilities from Castle and Cooke to billionaire Larry Ellison was filed with the Public Utilities Commission at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The commission is being asked to rush its decision, so the deal can close on June 27, which is Wednesday.

But a watchdog group is cautioning—that the timing is unprecedented and should not be permitted.

“If you are purchasing an island for a half a billion dollars, and it takes you two months, what’s the problem?" said Life of the Land spokesman Henry Curtis.

Life of the Land is questioning the Lanai sale which would allow the island's wind rights to stay with the seller--Castle and Cooke's David Murdock.

There are windmills now operating on Maui, but not yet on Lanai.

"The whole potential wind farm has been cloaked with secrecy. The agreement between the utility between Castle and Cooke has been cloaked with secrecy, and if we do not intervene now, we could lose some rights down the road," said Curtis.

Curtis noted that if the wind farm gets the green light, there would be a need to vastly expand Lanai's harbor and roads just to get the wind turbines erected.

"Once you have the harbor in place, and the modern road in place, then you could begin to put up enormous development," said Curtis.

But, there are other questions about the sale that others have raised.
The deal includes the sale of the island’s luxury hotels and golf courses.
The union that represents 650 of Lanai's workers at the resort properties, as well as at the utilities, said it has verbal assurances from Murdock that Larry Ellison will honor the union contracts in place.

"We have been told he is going to maintain everything, but when he comes in, we will see, yeah?" said International Longshoremen and Warehousemen Union leader William Kennison.

Kennison said the union reached a tentative agreement with the hotels Thursday afternoon.
Workers are to take a ratification vote on the contract Monday.

On a separate issue, state labor director Fred Pablo confirmed that Ellison’s company Oracle, owes the state more than $300,000 in back taxes.
The state filed tax liens after it unsuccessfully tried to collect the money owed.



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