April 30, 2002 – Joseph R. Thomas Jr., Water and Power Authority executive director, officially returned the reins on Tuesday that he was handed almost a year ago.
His resignation, which had been widely rumored in recent days, came at a regular meeting of the WAPA board on St. Croix.
"Because of the progress we've been making, this is not the ending I was hoping for," Thomas said Tuesday afternoon. "But I've taken the organization as far as I can, given the current configuration of things. I am here to support WAPA as a non-employee."
After discussions with certain board members, Thomas said, he asked the board a week ago to consider an amicable separation. He and some board members had not been seeing eye to eye for a while, a situation underscored at the March 26 board meeting, where protesting employees stormed into the board room.
Thomas, whose contract was for two years, said Tuesday that his decision to leave now was prompted by management problems between himself and the board. His last official day on the job is next Monday.
WAPA is facing a full agenda of major issues, among them:
– A decision by the Public Services Commission that could come Friday on the standing of Caribe Waste Technologies, the company selected by the Turnbull administration to build and operate a solid-waste processing facility on St. Croix to serve the whole territory. The PSC could in effect force WAPA to buy energy from CWT — power the utility has said it doesn't need, to be generated by what WAPA has called commercially unproven technology.
– Funding for the territory's street lighting, which the authority took over from the Public Works Department earlier this year.
– A huge bond issue.
Between now and Monday, Thomas will be a busy man. Funding for street lighting is up for discussion at a Senate Government Operations Committee meeting Thursday, and the PSC is scheduled to take up WAPA rate surcharges on Friday. Both meetings are on St. Croix.
Thomas, who moved to St. Thomas from the Atlanta area a year ago, said he hasn't decided whether he will leave the territory after leaving WAPA. "It's been heartwarming to see how much caring there is here. There are some very good people here — some of them work for WAPA, and a lot of them are served by WAPA," he said.
A release from the authority Tuesday afternoon confirmed Thomas's departure, describing it as an "amicable separation." According to the statement, it was "mutually agreed" that Thomas will receive a $150,000 lump-sum severance payment and an additional $19,538. The separation agreement also provides for extension of Thomas's health insurance benefits.
Glen Rothgeb, WAPA assistant executive director, will serve as acting director at $150,000 annually beginning May 7, the release stated.
In other action Tuesday, the WAPA board:
– Approved funding for several projects, including repairs to St. Thomas turbine units 11 and 13 and computer upgrades of continuous emission-monitoring systems.
– Approved extension of transmission distribution lines to Tutu Valley on St. Thomas.
– Extended security contracts with GAF services and Commercial Security Services to June 30.
Thomas reported that the V.I. Housing Authority has entered into an agreement with WAPA to pay more than $6 million that it owes the utility within one year. WAPA has yet to reach an agreement with the Juan Luis Hospital, which still owes $1.4 million, the release said.

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