WMA a No-Show at Senate Hearing

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April 19, 2005 – The Legislature's Committee of the Whole, chaired by Senate President Lorraine L. Berry, met on Thursday, April 13, 2005 to receive testimony on the feasibility of incorporating an artificial wetlands in our wastewater treatment plans, and the economic benefits of using a wetland treatment system. The Committee received testimony for several hours from invited testifiers who have proven expertise in managing wetlands, and who shared success stories on the wetlands model. The farming community represented by Mr. Kendall Petersen, and the St. Croix Environmental Association represented by Ms. Megan Schoenfelt also voiced their overwhelming support of the wetlands.
The members of the Committee met for several hours when the body was advised that no member of the Waste Management Authority invited, or the Commissioner of Property and Procurement Marc Biggs would attend the meeting. Senators were not pleased with the lack of participation of Government representatives, and the "slight" and outright "disrespect" of the First Branch of Government by members of the Executive Branch and Waste Management Authority.
Senate President Lorraine Berry was extremely displeased by their failure to attend this meeting, which was organized for information on the progress of the projected wastewater plants. Senator Berry was concerned that the Turnbull-Richards Administration was dismissing a less expensive and environmentally sound wetlands project.
In her opening remarks, Senator Berry indicated that a lot of money will be spend on the waste treatment facilities and we may not be getting our best deal. The public will be paying for the new plants through tipping fees and other taxes for decades.
The committee heard from two independent officials, John Janaiewisz, Director of Public Works of Highland, New York and Joe Mistch, Director of Public Works, Mandleville, Louisiana, who indicated that the wetlands technology is considerably less expensive than the mechanized units. Senators Ronald Russell, Roosevelt David, and Louis Hill questioned the costs of operations. They believed that the mechanized units might be too expensive.
Mr. Patrick Mahoney presented his wetland's proposal and he indicated that he was locked out of the initial process. He could not even conduct a demonstration project as was originally proposed. However, too many questions could not be answered due to the lack of official participation by the relevant agency heads and Waste Management Authority members.
After some open discussion about the failure of Government officials to appear before the Committee, Senator Ronald Russell made two motions to first subpoena the present and past Commissioner of Public Works, and Mr. George Phillips, the former Interim Executive Director of the Waste Management Authority, Ms. Sonia Nelthropp, and the Board Chairman of the Waste Management Authority Mr. Winston Adams. The second motion made was to subpoena all documents related to the Veolia Water North America contract. Senator Neville James made an additional motion to subpoena Mr. Wayne Callwood, the former Commissioner of Public Works. All three motions received the unanimous consent of the members present.
Senator Berry advised the body that when government officials fail to appear before the Legislature, especially on matters that have such an adverse impact on the people, they would be subpoenaed and ordered to appear before the body to give testimony, under oath, on the issues before the body.
"The Legislature will not stand for this level of disrespect from any public servant", Berry concluded
Senators attending the Committee of the Whole meeting were Senate President Lorraine L. Berry who presided over the meeting, Senator Celestino White, Senator Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Senator At-Large Craig Barshinger, Senator Louis P. Hill, Senator Ronald Russell, Senator Neville James, Senator Juan Figueroa Serville, Senator Pedro Encarnacion, Senator Terence "Positive" Nelson, Senator Shawn Michael-Malone, Senator Norman John-Baptiste and Senator Roosevelt David. Senators Liston Davis and Usie Richards were off-island.

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