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HomeNewsArchivesFinance Committee Holds Bill to Centralize Government WAPA Payments

Finance Committee Holds Bill to Centralize Government WAPA Payments

Oct. 7, 2008 — Rather than appear in person, Budget Director Debra Gottlieb sent a letter to the Legislature's Finance committee saying she opposed a bill to funnel all V.I. Water and Power Authority payments for local government departments and agencies through the Management and Budget Office.
For their part, senators said they wanted to hear from the Budget Office in person.
"I'm not going to vote for it in the dark," Sen. Liston Davis said at the meeting held Tuesday at Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall.
The senators were annoyed that Gottlieb didn't send a staff member since she couldn't appear in person.
Gottlieb's opposition to the bill stems from the extra burden it places on her office, she wrote in her letter to the senators.
They agreed to hold the bill in committee "to await further testimony."
The bill, with Sen. Louis P. Hill as the prime sponsor and Sen. Ronald Russell as a co-sponsor, is intended to keep WAPA from falling into another financial morass because some government departments and agencies don't pay their bills.
"This is a system that will streamline the process," Hill said.
WAPA just got a bailout to the tune of $17.5 million, thanks to a reprogramming of funds by the executive branch. The Legislature approved the reprogramming, which means departments and agencies are now up to date on their WAPA bills.
Speaking in favor of the bill, WAPA Assistant Financial Chief Maurice Sebastien said the proposal will strengthen WAPA's cash flow.
Hill and Russell spoke out for the bill, but Finance Committee members had other ideas.
"I don't believe this is going to pay WAPA any quicker," Sen. Carlton Dowe said.
When Sen. James Weber III moved to hold the bill until the senators could hear from the Budget Office, the senators shot down his proposal because not all of them had a chance to speak their minds about it.
This prompted an irate Hill to complain.
"I can't believe my ears," he said. "I can't believe a senator would have the arrogance to kill a bill when senators are sitting in their chair waiting to speak."
Hill's comments turned into a personal attack on Weber, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, for not sponsoring legislation to improve the territory's economic situation. Weber then shot back at Hill for what he characterized as Hill's failure to build consensus.
The exchange prompted Dowe to ask that the day not end with the senators at each others' throats.
The senators approved five leases for government property. The leases will go to the full Senate for its consideration.
The leases include a 20-year lease for Metro Motors to park vehicles on 27,287 square feet of land in Anna's Retreat, St. Thomas. The rent is $20,465 per year for the first five years, with the lease to be adjusted every five years in accord with the Consumer Price Index.
The senators also approved a 15-year lease for 2,342 square feet of land in Subbase, St. Thomas, so Texas Pit Barbecue can build a kiosk similar to the ones it operates in Wheatley Center and Red Hook. The rent is $5,000 per year. Texas Pit needs to relocate from its current Subbase location because the Waste Management Authority is using a warehouse right behind the Texas Pit takeout restaurant, which makes the area unsuitable for a restaurant, said Halvor Hart III, deputy commissioner of Property and Procurement.
Island Gas received a 20-year lease for 4,588 square feet of land at Subbase to put up a prefabricated building. The lease runs $9,176 a year.
The senators gave A&R Transportation a 20-year lease at $11,376 per year for use in its trucking and warehouse business. The property size is 7,110 square feet.
Lastly, B&W Realty Investments got a lease for 15,802 square feet of land in Nisky to build a two-story parking garage. The rent is $27,653 per year for 10 years.
Except for the Metro Motors vote, all seven Finance Committee members voted yes on the leases. Sen. Neville James was off the floor and Russell voted no on the Metro Motors lease.
In addition to James, Russell, Davis, Dowe, and Weber, Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville attended the meeting. Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson chaired the meeting.
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