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WAPA Board Approves Prepayment of Retirement Benefits

During its monthly meeting Tuesday, the V.I. Water and Power Authority Governing Board approved pre-funding some of its employees retirement benefits in order to reduce current and future liability to the plan.

The new policy brings WAPA into compliance with a General Accounting Services Board statement on reporting benefits, according to a statement from the authority. By using the prefunding option, WAPA would make payments larger than the premium and have a cushion or surplus at the end of the term. The surplus would be for the sole purpose of premiums for retirees and could not be used for any other purpose, according to WAPA.

The board also voted to increase a contract to purchase interactive voice response software and outage management system software. The changes, budgeted at $300,000, would reduce line loss, reducing outage durations due to faster restoration based on outage location predictions, and improving customer satisfaction by providing up-to-the-minute information about restoration progress and schedules, WAPA said. The Interactive Voice Response system will provide the ability to handle high call volumes during outages, service customers after normal business hours and prioritize customers so urgent calls are handled more quickly.

The funds used for this project were approved in the initial contract of $2.5 million, but came in under budget by $300,000, allowing for the increased scope of work, WAPA’s statement said.

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The Board also voted to extend the maturity date for $10 million from the WAPA General Obligation 2008 Series C Note with Banco Popular, extending it from Dec. 25, 2013 to June 25, 2016. This line of credit provides continued funding which allows the authority to acquire capital assets for water and electrical production, distribution systems and related facilities, as well as to fund key operating and maintenance expenditures, the company’s statement said. The extension would bring the maturity date of this note in line with the expiration date of the authority’s other note with First Bank. WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge said ratings agencies prefer to see the bank lines of credit have the same maturity date.

The board also approved a contract to Dashiell Corporation for $456,435 to upgrade the generator protection system for St. Croix units 16 and 20. The upgrade was originally planned for 2010 and included in the design of the 69/25 KV substation but was not completed due to financial constraints.

And the board approved an amendment to a contract with SAIC Energy, Environment & Infrastructure LLC for another $50,000 for professional and technical consulting services to complete work on the 2012 Electric Base Rate Case with the authority.

Board members in attendance at Thursday’s meeting included Chairman Gerald Groner, Vice Chair Juanita Young, Secretary Noel Loftus, Cheryl Boynes Jackson, Elizabeth Armstrong, Donald Francois, and Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes. V.I. Energy Office Director Karl Knight and Licensing and Consumer Commissioner Wayne Biggs were absent.

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