Mar. 20, 2004 At its Friday meeting, the Public Services Commission concentrated on its own operating mechanisms, as opposed to those of the utilities it regulates.
The commission's $1 million fiscal year 2004 budget was the highlight of the meeting, along with a decision to pay $15,000 to join the Caribbean Electrical Utilities Association, a recently formed group gathered to deal with utility issues in the Caribbean.
"The Caribbean association is a must for us," said PSC chair Valencio Jackson, according to a Saturday report in the Avis newspaper.
"The cost of utilities is astronomical in the Caribbean, and we need to find ways to reduce it," Jackson said. "Holding hands with the Caribbean association will help us find ways to do this."
The agency is still in the drafting process for its FY 2004 budget. All government agencies are operating on FY 2003 budgets since Gov. Charles W. Turnbull vetoed the Legislature's 2004 budget last December, which he found "unacceptable." (See "Governor vetoes FY 2004 budget in its entirety".)
PSC Account Officer Claudius Moore said the supplemental budget calls for two new positions: the agency's own attorney, at $90,000 annually; and a $30,000 yearly clerk position.
Fred Watts has served as the commission's legal counsel and hearing examiner for several years, but several commissioners were in favor of the agency having its own attorney. According to the Avis report, Commissioner Verne David said, "I've always been a strong advocate of hiring our own counsel."
The commissioners also increased the budgeted amount for a Web site from $40,000 to $50,000. "We have enough vendors to choose from," said Jackson. "We have to attain this goal, according to the OMB [Office of Management and Budget]; and this chair will make sure we attain it."
Another budget issue, the commissioner said, is the cost of traveling off-island. "Critics have the wrong idea about our traveling," said Desmond Maynard, former commission chair. "These are not vacations. We learn things that can be applied here. It is an education."
Watts said the seminars the commissioners attend are "like a college" for the commissioners, where they get training and information on regulating utilities.
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