Nov. 3, 2005 Christmas came early for WAPA supervisory employees.
On Thursday the executive board approved a new contract for members of Local 611, amounting to a total payment of $294,200 to employees over three years or about 3.5 percent for each affected supervisor. The contract, which is one year overdue, includes retroactive payments.
Board President Daryl "Mickey" Lynch said the V.I. government has "substantially reduced" its overdue utility bills and that the Juan Luis hospital recently paid $125,000 in overdue bills. The board approved offsetting overdue bills from certain government against WAPA's payments due to the government. The utility's debt to the government in 2005 is $3.2 million. In January WAPA announced that the government owed it $15 million in past due bills.Since then many departments have paid down their bills.
Alberto Bruno-Vega, WAPA's executive director, said the company is making headway in improving electric and water line losses. He said the company has reduced electric losses from 10 percent to 8.41 percent and water losses from 20 to 19 percent.
"There is still room for improvement," Bruno Vega said. "But we are moving forward."
The board also voted to approve investing funds into a brokerage account. Nellon Bowry, WAPA's chief financial officer, said investing WAPA's funds in a U.S. securities fund, which is similar to a CD, would bring a higher return on the funds. A CD normally earns interest of 2.5 to 2.6 percent, but the securities can earn up to 3.6 percent.
Other items approved by the board included $395,140 for replacement of relays at the Tutu and East End substations in St. Thomas to improve the reliability and consistency of electric power; $6.5 million to design and construct a new substation at Long Bay; and a contract for a monitoring system that allows the utility to track problems in lines and substations from a central area. The board also authorized the payment of $6,900 to purchase laptop computers.
Members discussed an agreement with Hovensa, which operates a crude oil refinery on St. Croix, that includes the company providing training to WAPA operators and equipment exchange. The board said the agreement would help with technical issues and to improve efficiency.
Members present at the board meeting in the WAPA conference room in the Sunny Isles annex were Alfonso Franklin, Sheryl Boynes-Jackson, Ira Hobson, Yolanda Samuel-Deterville and board president Lynch. Members, Andrew Rutnick, Roy Anduze and Claude "Tappy" Molloy were absent.
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