Jan. 13, 2005 – Senator Ronald E. Russell is urging the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority to reimburse their customers for damages caused by the island-wide power outage on Sunday, January 9, 2005 that lasted for 14 hours.
"By all accounts, the lengthy power outage was not unavoidable and WAPA should show a sense of responsibility," said Russell. "When customers do not pay their bills, their services are cut. When WAPA fails to provide service, the customers should be reimbursed."
Russell said that the recent poor service provided by the public utility does not warrant the high electric rates that Virgin Islands residents are forced to pay. He noted that during the past two weeks leading up to Sunday's power failure, there were numerous unannounced power outages in various parts of St. Croix including on Christmas Day that severely affected residents and businesses.
Russell believes that as a public utility, WAPA's first responsibility should be ensuring that its customers could depend on reliable, uninterrupted electric service that does not result in physical hardships and inconveniences. He said when problems inevitably arise, they should be immediately addressed and preventive measures should be taken.
Russell also called on the utility company to prosecute those employees that a recently released Inspector General's audit revealed caused WAPA to lose more than $3 million per year. He said those losses are then passed on to struggling, law-abiding consumers through frequent water and power rate increases.
Russell said he intends to urge other members of the minority caucus to schedule a meeting with WAPA Executive Director Alberto Bruno-Vega and members of the Public Services Commission to ensure that the public utility makes it a priority to offer their customers the best possible service without the inflated prices.
He also urged residents to contact WAPA to express their dissatisfaction with the poor service and demand a rebate for losses suffered during Sunday's power failure.
"The territory's residents deserve better and they should get better," Russell said.
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