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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024


The pending sale of 80 percent of the Water and Power Authority has the utility’s management in limbo and its work force in flux, according to WAPA board chair Carol Burke, and the government's unpaid bills have it on the verge of economic crisis.
Burke’s assessment came in her State of the Authority address at a recent WAPA board retreat. Along with the proposed deal between the V.I. government and Southern Energy and how it is affecting staffing, Burke said, the other crucial challenge WAPA faces is collecting the approximately $20 million in outstanding utility bills owed by the executive branch.
The uncertainty of the utility’s future because of the pending sale has had an impact on the stability of WAPA’s work force and its ability to attract qualified personnel, Burke said.
"The joint venture has really consumed the management to the point that it has affected the management," Burke said. She said the pending deal has played havoc with WAPA’s ability to attract skilled personnel such as engineers, as well as lower-level employees, to replace those who she said are "leaving at every opportunity."
"We’ve lost a lot of engineers," she said. "Engineering is the backbone of the operation."
However, Burke said, the immediate future of WAPA depends on whether the V.I. government will be able to pay its ever-increasing electric and water bills. She said revenues for fiscal year 2000 to date are approximately $98 million for electricity and $30 million for water, while expenses are about $89 million and $23 million, respectively.
The government owes $10.2 million and counting for electricity and $9.1 million so far for water. Non-government receivables are $2.4 million for electricity and about $3 million for water, she said.
With regard to the government debt, "Should the present pattern continue, the Authority will have difficulty surviving," Burke said. "The continuing government receivable has resulted in qualified audits for both the electric and water systems and is having a negative impact on WAPA’s operations."
Although "expenses have been contained relative to revenues," she said, "the cash situation has deteriorated to a critical stage."

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