Home News Local news ATTEMPT TO HALT POSSIBLE WAPA SALE NEAR

ATTEMPT TO HALT POSSIBLE WAPA SALE NEAR

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A St. Croix community activist opposed to the way Gov. Charles Turnbull is conducting negotiations for the possible sale of the V.I. Water and Power Authority said Monday that she would sue this week to halt the process.
Gail Watson Chiang and her attorney, Lee Rohn, contend that the administration’s negotiations with Southern Energy violate local competitive bidding laws. In a Jan. 5 letter to Turnbull and other officials, Rohn said V.I. Code mandates that before a sale of a public asset or the signing of a government contract, the commissioner of Property and Procurement must secure competitive bids. An ensuing sale should then be made to the highest bidder, she said.
As of Monday, Chiang said she hadn’t been contacted by the administration, but said Rohn had. Rohn was not available for comment. Government House spokeswoman Rina McBrowne didn’t return calls.
But Chiang was adamant about moving forward with the suit.
"It’s definitely going to come to pass. I’m hoping some kind of (temporary restraining order) can be filed," she said, adding that the administration’s contact with Rohn was inconclusive. "They seem to be doing business as usual."
Last week, Southern Energy’s George Gray told Rotarians on St. Croix that the company will offer $100 million in cash for WAPA and refinance $150 million of the utility’s bond indebtedness for 80 percent ownership. The new company would be called V.I. Power.
As of last Wednesday, Gray said an offer would be submitted to the governor within the next five to 10 days.
The proposed sale has divided the WAPA board of directors. Claude Molloy told WSTX radio that he opposes it. He said the manner in which negotiations have been carried out are "possibly illegal."
Molloy, meanwhile, said Rohn’s contentions were neither "totally wrong" nor "totally correct."
Also on WSTX Monday, board member Dean Plaskett, who is also commissioner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, said that as of yet, "nothing has been offered to the governor."
"We have an obligation to the people of the Virgin Islands to at least listen to what is being offered," Plaskett said.

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