March 22, 2006 — Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville's first meeting as chairman of the Committee on Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs was not always pretty. During the meeting — which began Wednesday at 10 a.m. and ended about 8 p.m. — Sen. Ronald E. Russell said former Sen. Adelbert Bryan threatened him and security should have called the police to remove Bryan.
At another point in the day's proceedings, Sen. Celestino White Sr. would not quit proclaiming loudly and Figueroa-Serville had to demand that White's microphone be turned off.
However, with his parents sitting proudly in the audience, Figueroa-Serville was able to end the hearing on a positive note, pledging to help residents of Castle Burke in their dispute with the Water and Power Authority regarding WAPA notices to cut off power to homeowners who had not yet moved their meters from the back of their property to the front.
He said, "I think a community is judged on how it treats its most vulnerable. We should help them."
Myrna Pickard, vice president of the Castle Burke Homeowner's Association, testified that many of those who had failed to comply with WAPA's demand — less than 10 percent of those asked — were either elderly, handicapped or had medical problems.
Castle Burke came into existence as a temporary housing project after Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989.
Alberto Bruno-Vega, WAPA's executive director, told senators that moving the meters to the front of the property was more than an issue of accessibility — he said it was a safety issue.
Bruno-Vega said the meters were placed in the back of the property 17 years ago by FEMA only as a temporary solution. He said they are in such disrepair now that he is afraid a youngster could be electrocuted.
Pickard said it was more than an issue of the $400 to $500 dollars the residents had to pay to move the meters. (WAPA is waiving disconnect and reconnect fees). She said residents resented the rude manner in which WAPA was making its demands.
She also said the residents had been promised improvements to the infrastructure in Estate Castle Burke, but none of those improvements have been made. She said, "Why should we be forced to do this, when you have not done what you promised to do."
Pickard said many areas became impassable during wet weather because of flooding. She also said streets that were promised streetlights never received them. She also said sidewalks were promised.
Bruno-Vega was asked why WAPA just could not absorb the costs of moving the meters so other work could proceed. He responded that there was a problem with liability and added, "If we do this for a certain group, we would have to do it for everybody."
Senators attending the hearing included Pedro Encarnacion, Usie Richards, Figueroa-Serville, White, Norman Jn Baptiste and Louis Hill.
Russell reported he was canceling the Rules Committee hearing scheduled for Thursday evening in Frederiksted.
The committee was to consider the nomination of Julio A. Brady to the V.I. Superior Court.
Russell said the committed had not received a report from the attorney general's office concerning the nominee.
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