July 8, 2004 – As a step toward the day the new Waste Management Authority will assume responsibility for trash removal and wastewater collection, its governing board met this week to discuss the role of the Public Services Commission in the setting of fees for those services.
At the meeting, held Tuesday on St. Croix, the five members of the board now in place worked on a formal request to the PSC to set up the environmental users fee.
Sonia Nelthropp, Public Works Department senior compliance officer for solid waste and wastewater management, told the board that PSC involvement is mandated by the legislation that created the Waste Management Authority.
The authority cannot just "set rates at will," Nelthropp said on Wednesday. The rates are to be set "according to need," she said, "and for that reason it was put into the legislation that they would be utilizing the Public Services Commission the same way as [the Water and Power Authority] does — or any of the other utilities, like the phone company or the ferry services."
Tuesday's meeting was the fourth by the WMA board since it began its work last month. Even before this week, the PSC had made its presence felt, the commission's executive director, Keithley Joseph, said, noting that he has sat in on several of the meetings.
"I only went there to lend my expertise on the day-to-day and to hear and to assist with any questions they might have about getting off the ground," Joseph said on Thursday.
For now, he said, the discussions are informal, and legal advisers to the PSC also are talking internally about how the two agencies will interface. As the WMA is a semi-autonomous agency serving residential and business customers, Joseph said, the thinking is to establish a relationship similar to the one the PSC has with WAPA.
Preliminary to setting up the environmental user fee structure, Joseph said, the PSC will ask the waste authority board to justify its recommended rates. A possible scenario, he said, would be to implement fees gradually over a set time period in order to lessen the financial impact on customers.
Because the commission does not have the expertise in-house to determine whether the proposed waste management fees are economically sound, Joseph said, it will probably hire a consultant to do comparison studies.
He also said the V.I. Code must be amended to establish the legal relationship between the WMA board and the PSC and a decision must be reached on how the authority will pay the commission to provide oversight.
The WMA board by law consists of seven members. Two of the four seats for private-sector members remain vacant. The governor submitted his nominations for the positions in February, but the Legislature has yet to act on them.
For background on the staffing of the Waste Management Authority, the makeup of its governing board and the new agency's priorities, see "Winston Adams to Chair Waste Authority Board".
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