Cornwall Retires; VIWMA Begins Search for New Executive Director

May Adams Cornwall announced Thursday that she will retire from her position as executive director of the V.I. Waste Management Authority, a position she has held for more than a decade.

Cornwall made the announcement during executive session at the VIWMA’s regular board meeting at Pedrito A. Francois Wastewater Facility on St. Thomas. Her separation date will be Feb. 29.

Cornwall has worked for the Virgin Islands Government in various capacities for 28 years. She began at the Department of Public Works, holding the positions of district engineer, director of environmental services, and chief engineer. Later she served as water superintendent, research and grants administrator, and director of water distribution for the V.I. Water and Power Authority. She took the position of executive director of the VIWMA in 2005.

After the executive session, the VIWMA board reported it will begin its search for Cornwall’s replacement immediately. Norbert Rosado, the VIWMA’s new board chairman, thanked Cornwall on behalf of the board for her years of service. Cornwall likewise thanked past and present board members and the VIWMA management team for their support during her tenure.

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During its regular session, the board addressed three new items of business.

The board approved a memorandum of agreement between Public Works and the VIWMA for the awarding of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s fiscal year 2015 Clean Water Construction Act Grant.

The $4,335,000 federal grant will be awarded to the DPW with the VIWMA serving as the sub-grantee.

One of the projects that the VIWMA plans to undertake with the grant money is installation of telemetry systems at pump stations throughout the territory, said VIWMA Chief Engineer Jim Grum. The telemetry systems will allow employees to monitor the stations remotely.

“It should reduce our labor costs, because instead of having someone visit our pump stations every single day, the telemetry system will notify us when there is a problem and when it needs attention,” Grum said.

Grum stated that the telemetry project’s completion date will be 2018, but DPW Commissioner Gustav James, who sits on the VIWMA board, questioned why that deadline was so far away.

“This is a relatively small project in terms of the work involved,” James said. “That completion schedule is extremely liberal.”

Grum responded that the actual work of installing the telemetry systems will probably take no more than 6 months, but the funding and procurement process for the project may take up to three times longer than that.

James said the Mapp Administration’s policy on federal grants is to spend them as promptly as possible. The Governor does not want the V.I. government to lose out on funds if grant periods end before they can be fully expended, something which has happened in the past.

The EPA’s Clean Water Construction Act Grant covers a five year period, but there is no mandated schedule as to when the money should be spent within that time frame.

“Even though it’s a five year grant we don’t have to use five years,” James said. “If we can finish the grant even in the first year, that’s fine. The sooner we can put this money into our economy, the better it will be for the Virgin Islands. That’s the attitude and the initiative coming from the administration.”

“There are going to be monthly reports going forward regarding how we are utilizing federal grant monies,” added James.

Cornwall added for the record that the VIWMA has had a compliance visit from the Office of Management and Budget and passed all requirements regarding its federal grants.

The board unanimously approved a change order in the amount of $34,281.20 to a contract for its completed Lagoon Street pump station upgrades on St. Croix. It also added an amendment to its board policies to restrict the amount of time members can wait between traveling for business and requesting travel reimbursements.

The board swore in new member Harith Wickrema. LaToya Williams, also new to the board, was sworn in recently on St. Croix. New board member Clifford Joseph, who telephoned in to the meeting, will be sworn in at the board’s next meeting on the big island. He listened in as a non-voting member on Thursday.

New board officers were also elected Thursday. Rosado was elected chairman, Wickrema was elected vice-chairman, and Williams was elected secretary, all by acclamation.

Also present were board member LaVerne Ragster and Chief Operating Officer Steve Aubin.

Chief Financial Officer Deandre Atwell was absent due to injury. 

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