The V.I. Public Services Commission will begin hearings Aug. 16 on whether to remove the St. Croix-St. Thomas ferry route from V.I. SeaTrans for abandonment of the franchise, according to PSC Vice Chairman M. Thomas Jackson’s testimony during Senate budget hearings Tuesday.
SeaTrans has had serious financial difficulties and has not run the St. Croix route regularly since its flagship vessel, the Royal Miss Belmar, ran aground in July of 2011
In March, the PSC received a petition for forfeiture of the franchise from the Justice Department, for abandonment of the franchise.
On May 8, the PSC appointed St. Croix attorney Lorin Kleeger as hearing examiner to consider revoking the SeaTrans ferry contract for the St. Croix-St. Thomas route. (See related links above)
Keithley Joseph, PSC executive director, presented the commission’s budget request of $1.6 million, noting it is a decrease of $163,000 or 9.44 percent from the Fiscal Year 2012 appropriation.
Personnel costs consume $1.1 million of that budget, with $789,000 for wages and salaries, and $281,000 for Medicare, Social Security and benefits. Rent comes to $97,000; travel another $89,000, professional services $64,000, utilities $62,000 and office supplies $37,000, according to information submitted along with Joseph’s testimony.
The PSC’s $1.6 million operating budget comes entirely from its regulated utilities in the form of regular, annual revenue-based assessments collected in the PSC Revolving Fund. Of that total, just under a million dollars ($927,000) is from other semi-autonomous government entities, with $722,000 or 46 percent of the total from WAPA, and $205,000 or 13 percent from the V.I. Waste Management Authority. Assessments on Vitelco account for $485,000 or 28.1 percent; the two Innovative cable television companies account for another $167,000 or 9.6 percent; and smaller assessments on the ferry companies round out the total.
Docket specific assessments for 2012, charged to the utilities for rate studies and other actions, include $70,000 assessed to WAPA, $185,000 to Vitelco, $10,000 to the Waste Management Authority, $95,000 to Choice, and $7,000 to Centennial Communications.
Additionally, from October 2011 through February 2012, the PSC assessed WAPA $100,000, and $2,000 each to V.I. Boomerang Wireless and to Pungitore Energy Development.
No votes were taken at the information gathering hearing.