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WAPA Rate Hearings Begin on St. John

June 1, 2009 — While the Public Services Commission must give its approval, the PSC and the V.I. Water and Power Authority have agreed on electric and water rate increases, representatives from the agencies said Monday at a rate hearing in the Legislature building on St. John.
"We did it in the best interest of all the parties," said WAPA Director Hugo Hodge Jr.
If the PSC board gives the okay, residential electric rates will increase by 5.7 percent for the average WAPA customer who uses 500 kilowatt hours per month. The bill for 500 kilowatt hours per month now stands at $121.37, but will rise to $128.34. The base rate will go from 0.071317 cents per kilowatt hour to 0.083255 cents per kilowatt hour.
Commercial customers using an average 1,200 kilowatt hours per month will see a 6.1 percent increase. The bill for those 1,200 kilowatt hours now stands at $123.47 a month, but will rise to $141.92 a moth. The base rate will go from 0.102895 per kilowatt hour to 0.118259 per kilowatt hour.
Customers will still face a fluctuating Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (LEAC), which depends on the price of oil. It currently stands at 0.159464 per kilowatt hour for both residential and commercial customers.
Water customers face a 12.7-percent rate increase, with the average customer using 2,400 gallons a month. Bills for those customers are expected to go from $51.35 a month to $57.87.
The rate hearings will continue Tuesday at the PSC office in Barbel Plaza, St. Thomas. The final hearing will take place Wednesday at the V.I. Port Authority Conference Room at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix. Both are scheduled for 6 p.m.
After hearing examiner Kathleen Mackay proffers her opinion, the PSC will make its decision on the proposed rate increases at its June 12 meeting at its offices on St. Thomas.
The handful of St. John residents who attended Monday's meeting were vastly outnumbered by PSC and WAPA staff, attorneys and consultants.
Two of those residents, business owners Lonnie and Albert Willis, spoke out about the impact WAPA rates have on businesses. Lonnie Willis said the situation was critical during last summer's spike in the LEAC, thanks to oil prices that hit at their high $147 a barrel.
"It put people out of business," Lonnie Willis said.
When Lorelei Monsanto complained that she had to pay $387 for a truckload of WAPA water delivered to her Coral Bay house, Hodge said WAPA is negotiating for land in Coral Bay so it can install a desalinization plant. Since the bulk of the trucked water cost goes for trucking, the plant is expected to reduce the cost of water in the Coral Bay area.
"Hopefully, before long we'll have some semblance of water," Hodge said.
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