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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, June 20, 2024
HomeNewsLocal governmentBryan Acknowledges WAPA Frustration, Vows to Address Ongoing Challenges

Bryan Acknowledges WAPA Frustration, Vows to Address Ongoing Challenges

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. provides updates during a Government House weekly press briefing on Monday. (Photo courtesy V.I. Government Facebook live stream)

During Monday’s weekly Government House press briefing, Gov. Albert Bryan, Jr. addressed frustration regarding ongoing WAPA power outages. The governor aimed to assure residents that steps are being taken to address the continuous problems.

“I share the deep concerns that have been voiced by many regarding the issues confronting the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and the frequent disruptions, especially in the St. Thomas and St. John districts,” Bryan said at the top of the briefing.

“These disruptions are not just an inconvenience; they affect our daily lives, businesses, and overall well-being,” Bryan stated. “This is why we declared a [Local] State of Emergency a little over a month ago because we have to do something to steadily increase the energy security in the Virgin Islands. This was just one proactive step to help avert constant crises and to enable our administration to take the necessary steps to stabilize WAPA.”

Bryan explained that once the State of Emergency was enacted, additional steps were taken to address the territory’s immediate need for assistance, including attempting to obtain a Presidential Declaration of Emergency to access more funding through community disaster loans. However, Bryan noted that the threshold to enact this type of declaration has not yet been crossed.

Still, Bryan reminded residents that the federal government is already involved in providing aid, praising FEMA’s commitment to the USVI, including its plan to rebuild the Richmond Power Plant on St. Croix, as well as replacing generators on St. Thomas. Bryan also mentioned that his administration is working with Basil Ottley, director of the Office of Insular Affairs within the U.S. Interior Department to obtain more resources for WAPA.

The governor assured the USVI community that actions are underway regarding the completion of the Wartsila project, which involves the installation of propane-fired generators for the Randolph Harley Power Plant on St. Thomas.

“We are aware that we have a problem, and I understand the frustrations,” Bryan empathized.

When asked by the Source about whether a new chief executive officer of WAPA has been determined to fill the role of outgoing CEO Andy Smith at the end of June, Bryan said that a decision will likely be made closer to the end of the month.

In addition to addressing the power failures, Bryan reminded residents to be prepared now that the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season is underway. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hurricane season is expected to be busy this year. However, regardless of predictions about the season, the governor explained that it only takes one storm to cause catastrophic damage.

“We need to remain vigilant at all times,” the governor stressed while commenting on recent exercises for hurricane season preparedness conducted by the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency.

Community Updates

In other community news, Bryan paid tribute to and honored the sizeable Palestinian community in the USVI, and he introduced Sirri Hamad, who has been appointed as Envoy to the Middle Eastern Community. The governor briefly addressed the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Bryan proclaimed that Nov. 29 will be declared Palestinian-Virgin Islands Friendship Day, and the announcement was met with applause from audience members attending the press briefing at Government House on St. Croix.

During Monday’s Government House weekly press briefing, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. introduced Sirri Hamad, pictured standing next to Bryan, who has been appointed as Envoy to the Middle Eastern Community. The governor has declared Nov. 29 as Palestinian-Virgin Islands Friendship Day. (Photo courtesy Government House)

“As individuals, regardless of our skin color, our origin, or religion, we should all want peace in this very tumultuous world,” Bryan said. “So, this year, on November 29 when the rest of the world acknowledges the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I will be proclaiming by executive order Palestinian-Virgin Islands Friendship Day.”

The governor also noted that he is awaiting approval of several articles of legislation that have previously been sent to the 35th Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands, including a bill that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes. Legislation requesting funding for Medicaid in the USVI and changes to worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance are also awaiting approval.

“This funding request is critical to restoring and maintaining the essential healthcare services that our community relies upon. The $3 million Medicaid appropriation measure was forwarded to the 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands on Friday, June 7, 2024,” according to information regarding Medicaid from the V.I. Human Services Department.

Additionally, a bill has been presented to the 35th Legislature regarding an option for residents to change their gender in the Virgin Islands legally.

“[Back in] February, we sent legislation [for approval] which would allow gender designations on official documents to be changed by filing a petition,” Bryan explained. “It is the administration’s approach that gender is a legal designation, and [there should be] a legal way for you to change your gender in the Virgin Islands. [The administration] would like to have this addressed considering that it is Pride Month, and we are celebrating Pride Month for the [entire month] of June,” the governor continued.

Finally, Bryan noted that he recently visited Frederiksted on St. Croix to raise awareness about abandoned and derelict buildings across the territory.

Bryan also declared that road paving will continue across portions of St. Croix and that he plans to address severely overgrown bushes on the island, which have grown extensively due to recent heavy rainfall across the region.

 

 

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