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WAPA Readies Backup Crews for Hurricane Season

With hurricane season fast approaching, the V.I. Water and Power Authority is finalizing its preparations, with officials gaining unanimous authorization Thursday from its governing board to start negotiations with off-island crews that can come in and help during a disaster.

Acting off of recommendations by WAPA substation manager Houston Harrigan, the board authorized the authority’s executive director to begin and enter into negotiations with four different electrical contracting firms for a one-year retainer agreement to work alongside WAPA’s line department to provide manpower and equipment in the event of an emergency. The companies selected Thursday were the successful bidders to a request for proposals (RFP) recently sent out by WAPA in preparation for the upcoming season.

Board members said that the firms were mainly based in the Midwest because crews from closer locations, such as Georgia and Florida, are less reliable, since they could be affected by the same weather systems as the territory.

Board members said they would like to go over the contracts before they are signed.

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WAPA has also sent an RFP out territory-wide so that it is guaranteed to have some local presence over the next few months, Harrigan said. Officials said that in the past, local firms had a hard time matching the resources (a minimum of 10 crews of seven men each with their own equipment) offered by the off-island firms that responded to the first RFP, so WAPA crafted a proposal specifically for local firms.

Also approved Thursday was the construction of an underground electrical duct bank system from Feeder No. 8 on St. Croix to the Cruzan Rum facility. The board approved an amount not to exceed $995,000 for the project, which will be contracted to GEC LLC and funded by 2010 bond proceeds.

The rum facility is expanding and will be increasing its power demand from 380 kilowatts to 2.5 megawatts. The connection to Feeder No. 8 is expected to make power service to the plant more reliable and will also reduce line loss, improve power quality and protect against the impact from strong storms and hurricanes, officials said.

Board members set an initial completion date of December 2011 for the project.

The board wrapped up its meeting by approving a supplement to a purchase order with Total Petroleum, which fuels WAPA’s vehicle fleet on St. Thomas. WAPA had budgeted $190,000 for the order, but a rise in gas prices left the authority shorthanded, so board members voted to increase the purchase order amount by $81,500 (making the total $271,500), which is anticipated to cover WAPA until June 30, 2011.

Board members in attendance were Alicia Barnes, Brenda Benjamin, Wayne Biggs, Donald Francois, Gerald Groner, Cheryl Boynes Jackson and Karl Knight, who will be replacing Kenneth Hermon Jr.

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