There were some strong indications Wednesday that negotiations between the Turnbull administration and Southern Energy over the future of the Water and Power Authority are coming to an end.
George Gray, Southern's account representative for WAPA, told St. Thomas Rotarians that while he does not know what the outcome will be, it will come soon.
"Yesterday or today we think we may have agreement except on six or seven issues but tomorrow we will go in and may have agreement on all but 25 or 26 issues," he said, "These are complicated and complex negotiations."
Later in his presentation Gray was a bit more specific about the timetable for the talks ending.
"There are people going over some technical and legal terms now," he said. "We believe that in the next five or seven days, the governor will have a package to review and subsequently submit to the Legislature."
While few details of the talks between Southern and the government are known, both sides have indicated that an agreement would include a basic assurance that key government agencies would not have electrical service disrupted for non-payment.
"What we have said in our negotiations is that we want to protect essential services such as fire, hospitals, police," Gray said. "We have made a commitment that there will be no cutoffs (for lack of payment)."
Under questioning, Gray also indicated that there will be no full-scale burying of power cables if Southern buys a controlling interest in WAPA.
While the utility would have every intention of securing the continued flow of power, he said that putting every inch of cable underground would be cost-prohibitive.
"It is a very expensive exercise to put all cables underground," he said. "The cost would exceed the authority's value."
Long term, he said, Southern would look at burying critical lines but "I do not ever see us going 100 percent underground."
Gray said nothing would happen under Southern's ownership that would not satisfy its customers. He pointed to Southern's success in the Bahamas and Europe.