The Senate Committee on Rules and Judiciary Thursday had two nominees related to the Public Services Commission before it — Sandra Setorie, executive director appointee, and Laura Nichols-Samms, PSC member nominee.
The Senate has in recent years expressed in legislation a concern about whether nominees had the technical qualifications needed for certain commissions and boards like the PSC.
Several senators, including Committee Chair Diane Capehart, had questions for Nichols-Samms, who is self-employed as co-owner of Passion Fruits Service, about her technical expertise.
Nichols-Samms answered that she had experience in accounting and legal matters. She also said she would be willing to attend classes that could educate her more on the technical issues concerning waste management, ferry transportation, and utility issues.
She said she was passionate about “clean energy” and would work to bring about more recycling on the island.
Sen. Franklin Johnson agreed with her that there was not enough recycling in the territory. The agreement was not enough for him, however, as he was one of the four senators present who voted unfavorably on Nichols-Samms’s nomination.
Setorie did not receive those types of questions. She has been assistant to the executive director at the PSC since 2001. She also worked in a similar lower position at the PSC for the previous four years.
Often, during the hearing, the senators’ questions veered from the nominees’ qualifications to problems that needed to be solved today.
Sen. Angel Bolques wanted to know how the nominees could help solve the brown-water problem afflicting St. Croix residents. He added, “It is no secret those are metal lines that have corroded and need replacing.” He asked about short-term relief like water trucks delivering to affected residents.
Nichols-Samms said she agreed the residents needed relief now. “That is the water they need for drinking and washing. It is not something they can wait for.”
Sen. Diane Capehart said she found the condition of the water “scary” and asked if there could be a way WAPA could tap into old wells to supply water to the Westend of St. Croix.
While the hearing was going on, the Water and Power Authority sent out a press release stating there would be more water testing on St. Croix, but no mention of water trucks or tapping into wells was mentioned.
Bolques, as well as Johnson, asked what the PSC could do to hold WAPA accountable when it did not provide residents with acceptable services. Neither received a definitive answer.
The committee also voted to move favorably two bills honoring residents for their contributions to the territory.
One act would honor Wayne “Facts Man” Adams for articulating and bringing events of historic significance to the people of the Virgin Islands by naming the bridge at the Nadir intersection on St. Thomas the Wayne “Facts Man” Adams Bridge. The other act would honor former Sen. Almando “Rocky” Liburd for his service and renaming the North Shore Road on St. John the Almando “Rocky” Liburd Drive.
Committee members attending Thursday’s hearing were Sens. Bolques, Capehart, Marise James, Johnson, Carla Joseph, and Milton Potter.