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Hawaii County Officials Say Telescope Protest Costs Over $3M

Ryan Finnerty/HPR

HILO — Hawaii County has spent more than $3 million on overtime and other costs as a result of protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope, officials said.

Hawaii County Finance Director Deanna Sako said Tuesday that the cost to the county government has been nearly $3.27 million since demonstrations began in July, news organizations reported Wednesday.

Demonstrators want to block work on the $1.4 billion telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea, which they fear will further harm the area many Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

Hawaii Island Police Chief Paul Ferreira said his department spent more than $2.9 million on overtime in July.

Ferreira declined to say how many Hawaii County officers were assigned to work at the demonstrations at the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Mauna Kea Access Road, but said overtime costs have fallen since July 28.

"We've scaled back considerably," Ferreira said. "I have one-third of what I had up there originally."

The county finance department is billing the state for its expenses, Sako said during a meeting in Kona.

State Sen. Lorraine Inouye published a letter Tuesday calling on Gov. David Ige, a fellow Democrat, to resolve the impasse in her district.

"We cannot pick and choose. Laws must be followed, all laws, all the time," Inouye's wrote. "Public trust requires bold leadership: Difficult decisions need to be made about Mauna Kea, its management, and how we address the needs of our host culture."

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