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WAPA Complains About PSC, Subsidizing Innovative

Nov. 18, 2004 –– The V.I. Water and Power Authority Board took potshots at the Public Services Commission when it met Thursday at the WAPA office conference room on St. John.
"The community should take closer note as to the drainage on WAPA's revenues for excessive fees charged by the PSC so it can pay its swarm of consultants," WAPA board member Roy Anduze Jr. said.
He said the consultants' advice was dubious at best and had often proved worthless.
Anduze said that yes, WAPA suffers losses in its electrical and water systems, but the "exorbitant payments" made year after year to the PSC would go a long way toward reducing WAPA's expenses.
Despite its complaints, the board approved a $602,272 assessment levied by the PSC to help fund its operational budget. The money comes from WAPA's operating budget.
"Though I feel it is unfair, it is the law," Yolander Samuel-Deterville, board secretary, said before casting her vote.
Daryl Lynch, WAPA board chairman, voted no.
Alberto Bruno-Vega, WAPA chief executive officer, said that for the current fiscal year, WAPA funds 69.3 percent of the PSC's $869,079 budget.
He said that in 2003, WAPA funded 65.5 percent of the PSC's $611,067 budget. It cost WAPA $400,249.
The PSC also charges WAPA additional money when it investigates various cases.
The board voted to approve $130,000 worth of case assessments for PSC investigations. The figure includes $50,000 for a Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause investigation, $70,000 for a water rate investigation and $10,000 for a streetlight investigation. Lynch was again the only board member voting no.
Bruno-Vega said WAPA's payments to the PSC are subsidizing Innovative Cable TV and Innovative Telephone, which are also regulated by the PSC.
"This is unfair," he said.
He said that the PSC calculates its assessment based on the gross revenue of each utility.
Bruno-Vega estimated that WAPA paid the PSC $3.6 million in the last three years plus about $1 million worth of time for its staff to deal with PSC matters.
The board zipped through its agenda in about one and a half hours before going into executive session for another one and a half hours.
Samuel-Deterville said the board discussed legal issues and a plan for a public education and information campaign during its closed-door session.
Bruno-Vega later elaborated. He said the public education campaign would inform the public about the LEAC and the world oil situation.
During the open part of the meeting, Maurice Sebastian, WAPA's assistant chief financial officer, said that oil now costs $50 a barrel. A year ago, the price ran $31 a barrel.
The WAPA board discussed its problems in collecting money owed by the Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix. Lynch said the hospital board agreed to start making current payments on Nov. 1 and to work out a plan to pay the $4 million it owes WAPA in back payments.
"We know we can't shut them off," board member Alphonso Franklin said.
The matter is also before the Territorial Court, which will determine the exact figure owed.
The board approved a handful of miscellaneous appropriations, included $1.3 million for Phase 1 of the Smith Bay waterline.
It also agreed to hire the Orlando-based consulting firm Bill+Peak to the tune of $82,200 to assess WAPA's billing, service connection and metering operations.
This meeting was the first time the WAPA board met in the authority's conference room. WAPA opened the new offices in June. Lynch said WAPA would meet again on St. John in February.
In addition to Anduze, Lynch, Franklin and Samuel-Deterville, board member Cheryl Boynes-Jackson attended. Board member Claude A. Molloy Sr. was absent.

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