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FIRST WAPA DUNNING NOTICES ARE IN THE MAIL

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July 1, 2001 – Letters went out over the weekend from the Water and Power Authority to government departments including Finance, Public Works, and Housing, Parks and Recreation with the ultimatum promised last week: Pay up by July 15 or look for the lights to go out.
The government owes more than $25 million in past-due water and electricity bills. Joseph Thomas, who took over as executive director of the utility seven weeks ago, told the WAPA board on Thursday and the Public Services Commission on Friday that the debt burden threatens the operation's solvency.
"It comes up in every financial decision we make. Every time we go to the bond market, every time we go to get a letter of credit, we are going to be paying more than we should because of our outstanding receivables," he said.
Government agencies are required to pay their own utility costs out of their fiscal budgets — submitting the bills to the Finance Department for payment. However, Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull has said that many agencies do not submit their utility bills to her department for payment and some have not done so for years.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull is scheduled to meet with Thomas on July 10, five days before the deadline WAPA has given the departments to get current. The governor called the Legislature into special session on Thursday to address, among other things, numerous requests for supplemental budget appropriations that included $10 million for WAPA. The Senate majority referred that appropriation measure and most of the others to the Finance Committee.
Thomas said he hopes to reach an agreement with the government. The utility stands to lose even more money by shutting off its largest customer, he noted. "It's crazy to have to go to the point where lights are shut off," he said, "and I am the last one to want to do that."
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, who chairs the Finance Committee, said Thursday that if the utility disconnects government agencies, legislators will vote to abolish the leadership of WAPA and return management operations to the government.
Even if the government pays the $10 million the governor has requested, Thomas said, that won't avoid disconnection. However, he has said that power will not be interrupted for critical government services, including hospitals, airports and police and fire stations.

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