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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 20, 2024


Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg's longstanding battle to get the Public Services Commission to investigate the rates of the Virgin Islands Telephone Corp. took a big step forward Monday, as the full Senate approved an amendment to mandate the study.
However, the amendment is attached to a St. Croix zoning bill which has not yet been voted on. It will be the first item when the session resumes on Tuesday.
It was a startlingly different reception than last Thursday in the Rules Committee. At that time, Donastorg had asked to have his name removed from a bill requiring a rate investigation any time a public utility announced a rate increase, calling the bill a "farce."
Instead he had offered an amendment specific to Vitelco demanding a "full rate investigation on the company's rates within 30 days of the enactment date of this act, and every two years thereafter."
The amendment was defeated and held in committee where Rules Chairwoman Violet Anne Golden said it "would probably linger." Donastorg warned then that it would wind up in court.
On Monday, Donastorg reiterated the pleas he had made to no avail on Thursday. "I have lost count of how many times I have raised this issue in here," he said, "maybe 23 or 25 times."
"I am giving you another opportunity to redeem yourselves now," Donastorg said. And enough senators voted to carry the measure.
Monday's amendment did not carry the 30-day clause. Instead, it stated that Vitelco has been a V.I. monopoly for more than 25 years and has realized millions of dollars in profits over the years, and that, as an Industrial Development Commission beneficiary since 1996, it returns very little of its profits to the community.
The bill further states that Vitelco sets aside $600,000 a year for rate investigations, which, when not utilized, return to Vitelco, and that the company has charged consumers $2 million per year for insurance that the utility never purchased.
The amendment concludes by noting that a preliminary study performed by the Georgetown Consulting Group recommended a full rate investigation and that V.I. taxpayers could be owed as much as $50 million; it mandates the PSC to conduct a full rate investigation.
The amendment passed, 8-6, with Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus absent. Voting for the measure were Donastorg and Sens. Lorraine Berry, Adelbert "Bert" Bryan, Roosevelt David, Judy Gomez, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Norman Jn Baptiste and Almando "Rocky" Liburd. Voting against were Golden and Sens. George Goodwin, Gregory Bennerson, Donald "Ducks" Cole, Vargrave Richards and David Jones.
After the vote, Donastorg was smiling. "The next hurdle is getting the governor's signature," he said. "It's not about me-it's about the rate payers getting their fair share."

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