May 19, 2005 – Roy A. Anduze, Water and Power Authority board member, said he might have to call up a man he respects, Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, and tell him, "When you go to work tomorrow, I strongly advise you to take a flashlight."
Anduze, and fellow members of the governing board of the Water and Power Authority, voted to send disconnect notices to Richards' office, Property and Procurement, the V.I. National Guard, VITEMA and the Department of Justice.
The disconnect notices will give the government agencies 15 days to either pay their bills or agree to a satisfactory payment plan with WAPA.
The WAPA board has been threatening such action for months and took the action at its meeting Thursday upon learning that no response had been made to attempts by WAPA to get these bills resolved.
Anduze said the lack of response indicated to him that the agencies were saying, "Go to hell, WAPA."
Ira Hobson, commissioner of Housing, Parks and Recreation, and member of the governing board, was the only one to vote against the measure. He noted that the government "was going through some tough times too." He mentioned across the board budget cuts of 10 percent. He said his budget was once $8 million but was now only $5 million.
Anduze noted that Housing had managed to keep its bill current and he commended Hobson for doing that. He said Hobson managed his department with skill, paying for essential services. He said Hobson should give classes to the other department heads.
The Department of Education was not on the list, even though it is the largest debtor to WAPA, owing $1.6 million, up from $1.3 million owed a month ago. It avoided the disconnect notice because it had sent in a payment recently.
However, the board did vote to send a notice to the Department of Education saying that an education official had to meet with an official of WAPA within 15 days to negotiate some sort of settlement or the schools too would get a disconnect notice.
Chairman Daryl Lynch said this was the time to get firm with the Department of Education as students would soon be out of school for the summer.
Alberto Bruno-Vega, chief executive officer of WAPA, told the board it might want to consider it more before it sent a disconnect notice to V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Authority.
However, Anduze said, "They can't even manage their own bills, why should we trust them to manage an emergency, We will send them their own little emergency." No one mentioned that in most major emergency situations everyone tends to get disconnected from WAPA.
VITEMA's bill is relatively small at $17,000 compared to the Department of Justice's bill which is $170,000 and Property and Procurement's is at $140,000. The V.I. National Guard is the highest of the four at $187,000. The excuse the National Guard had for not paying the bill was that there was "no local money" available.
The office of the governor is in arrears over $36,000 to WAPA. However, Nellon Bowry, chief financial officer for WAPA, said he had been assured by an accounting supervisor that vouchers to pay $25,000 worth of that bill were being processed.
The V.I. Police Department had owed $246,000 in mid April, but was able to bring its bill down to $88,000 by mid May. The Department of Finance had owed $43,000 in mid April, but had brought down its bill to just $493 by mid May.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resource avoided the disconnect notice by making one payment, bringing its bill down from $38, 344 to $37,873.
Claude Molloy, chairman of the WAPA board's finance committee, justified the disconnect notices saying WAPA's disconnect policies were now discriminatory allowing the government a free ride, but disconnecting families when they owed a relatively small sum.
Bowry also cited a report recently released by the Public Services Commission that was critical of WAPA for allowing the government agencies to run up these high bills.
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