Dec. 16, 2004 Sea View Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility on St. Thomas owes the V.I. Water and Power Authority $450,000 in past-due electric bill payments. That's what WAPA Executive Director Alberto Bruno-Vega told the board at its regular monthly meeting Thursday.
"They're billed monthly, but they haven't paid in many months," Bruno-Vega told board chairman Daryl Lynch. WAPA received a payment from the nursing facility on Nov. 12 but it owes for several months prior and has not issued a payment since then, Bruno-Vega said.
Bruno-Vega said Sea View's monthly bill is around $14,000 and he had requested that the facility pay $20,000 each month. The extra $6,000 would have gone to the debt, and it would take the facility six years to pay off its bill. But Sea View has not been complying with the agreement.
Lynch, reading from correspondence from Dr. Alfred Heath, Sea View director, said Heath stated he could not comply with the payment option.
Bruno-Vega said the government owes Sea View money, which may be causing it to be delinquent in its account with WAPA.
"This is one of the key accounts that needs to be addressed because of the burgeoning accounts receivable," Bruno-Vega said. Lynch asked if a disconnect notice had been sent to Sea View. Bruno-Vega said no.
"I don't think that it's right to let anybody regardless if it is the government, a nursing home or hospital to go into such large arrears for more than a year without notifying the board," Lynch said. "I strongly urge that we sit down and talk about how to reprise debt, revisit the matter and come to some decision."
Lynch said a portion of whatever the government owes to Sea View should go to WAPA.
However, WAPA is not the only vendor Sea View owes money to, Bruno-Vega warned. "They have a list of creditors, and we're at the bottom of the list," he said.
Board member Alphonso Franklin said they needed to put some pressure on Sea View.
"I don't think they're making an effort to pay," Franklin said. "I think we need to take some drastic measures with them." He reminded the board of when WAPA would disconnect services of companies and government agencies behind in payments.
But some board members were reluctant to put pressure on Sea View.
"I find this discussion a bit hypocritical," board member Claude Molloy said. "We have other accounts that haven't been cut off. If there's a time to be compassionate, this is the time to be compassionate. If we pressure them, they might go into bankruptcy."
Molloy made reference to Global Crossings, a commercial customer in debt to WAPA. Lynch responded, "We have a responsibility to our bond holders. We can't tell our bond holders the government is owing us or a nursing home is owing us." Lynch said he is not thinking of disconnecting Sea View, but measures have to be taken for the money to be paid.
"Despite the fact they provide a service, it's not a free service," Lynch said. "I find it hard to believe we allow accounts receivable to get to this point without the board being aware of it."
Sea View is not the only entity owing WAPA, however. Lynch said the V.I. government owes the utility a little more than $17 million. He said efforts have been made to pay by some departments such as Education and the V.I. Housing Authority.
After arguing among themselves whether WAPA had a policy in place with a cutoff period for delinquency, the board agreed to revisit the policy for handling past-due accounts when they re-convene in 2005.
Heath was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.
Board members in attendance were Lynch, Franklin, Molloy, Roy Anduze Jr., Ira Hobson and Yolanda Samuel-Deterville. Board member Cheryl Boynes-Jackson was absent.
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