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WAPA to Press for Luis Hospital Debt Payment Plan

Aug. 20, 2004 – The Water and Power Authority governing board voted on Thursday to have its Finance and Audit Committee request a meeting with the Juan F. Luis Hospital board to discuss settling the debt of nearly $4 million the hospital owes the utility.
The board has been seeking to work out payment arrangements with government agencies and instrumentalities that altogether owed the authority $16.4 million as of July. Of that amount, more than $3.75 million was owed by the St. Croix hospital.
WAPA was recently successful in working out a payment plan with the V.I. Housing Authority, which owed the utility more than $4 million. (See "VIHA Seals Deal to Pay WAPA Debt with a Big Check".)
With the cost of oil now at a record $47 per barrel, the authority has been experiencing a decreased cash flow. According to a release, WAPA's chief financial officer, Nellon Bowry, said rising fuel costs combined with the utility's failure to fully recover those costs through the monthly fuel charge on customers' bills pose severe problems for the authority.
"As under-recovery goes up, the cash flow is decreasing and WAPA's payables are steadily increasing," he said.
WAPA's chief executive officer, Alberto Bruno-Vega, noted that because of the spiraling fuel costs he has asked the Legislature to consider making utility payments line items for departments and agencies in the fiscal year 2005 budget. He also has asked that payment for streetlights be transferred back to the government, a move that he said would reduce electric consumers' bills by $2.2 million.
The release stated that the board in executive session approved a reorganization of WAPA's management structure. This, according to Bruno-Vega, will reduce payroll costs by $50,000 per year.
The board also approved:
– An increase of $180,000 by CIGNA in medical insurance fees for employee health insurance.
– WAPA management proceeding with negotiations with the utility's Supervisors Union for fiscal years 2005-08.
A 1.75 percent cost-of-living increase for FY 2004 for lower management and confidential employees.
The board also discussed recent WAPA meetings with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials concerning a waiver on replacement of the continuous emissions monitoring systems in both districts.
The next governing board meeting is to take place Sept. 16 on St. Croix during the board's annual retreat.

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