Home News Local news Bill Capping WAPA Reconnect Fees Goes to Full Senate

Bill Capping WAPA Reconnect Fees Goes to Full Senate


A bill to prohibit the V.I. Water and Power Authority from charging more than $25 to reconnect customers got the thumbs-up from the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee Tuesday evening and is headed for a final vote before the full Senate.

Sen. Usie Richards offered an amendment to make the cap effective July 1, which the committee approved.

Currently, reconnection before physical disconnection is $30; at the meter, $55; and at the pole or after hours $110, according to WAPA officials.

In earlier hearings, WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. testified against the bill, saying the fee has not been changed for over 30 years and reflects the utility’s actual costs for cutting and reconnecting power. One of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, and other proponents of the bill argued charging high fees to people who are having trouble paying their bills causes hardship.

Since 2006, revenues generated from reconnections have varied from $602,000 to $868,000 per year, territory-wide, according to data from WAPA.

In other committee action, an uncontroversial bill exempting disabled veterans from paying for handicapped window decals issued by the V.I. Bureau of Motor Vehicles served as a vehicle for several large, unrelated amendments.

One amendment requires the V.I. Port Authority to give the Senate a plan to relocate all the residents of its Estate Bournefield properties before it can moved anyone out or demolish any of the buildings.

Another amendment makes a long string of itemized budget cuts to the V.I. government’s fiscal year 2011 budget for austerity reasons, reducing it from $112.7 million to $106.5 million. By far the largest single cut is the elimination of $2 million in funding to the Division of Personnel for "employee separation."

Yet another expands on the V.I. code’s definition of a "ballot" as "the instrument upon which a voter’s choices are recorded" by defining "instrument" to mean paper ballots, absentee ballots, provisional ballots, voting machine apparatus or system or any other device used to record a voter’s choice.

A bill expanding burial benefits for veterans was amended slightly so it now would give V.I. government-financed burial benefits to veterans who lived in the territory when they died and joined the armed services in the U.S. Virgin Islands; vets who lived in the territory when they died and entered the armed forces while temporarily living elsewhere; and to those veterans born in the territory who die elsewhere but wish to be buried in the Virgin Islands.

The committee approved it and a related bill increasing the V.I. government’s burial benefit for veterans in the territory from $3,500 to $5,000.

The committee also approved a bill requested by V.I. Superior Court Presiding Judge Darryl Donohue increasing an array of court filing and document fees. The fees were last changed in 1992, St. Croix Superior Court Chief Deputy Clerk Tamara Bermudez testified.

The fee for civil judgment assessments on losing parties would see the biggest increase, going from $250 to $500. The fee for filing a complaint petition would increase from $50 to $150. Many other fees would see smaller increases if the bill becomes law.

Also approved was a bill to finance the government’s broadband initiative, which is discussed elsewhere in the Source today. (See "Rules Committee OKs Broadband Bill After Putting WAPA in Charge")

All the bills were unanimously forwarded to the full Senate for a final vote. Present were Hansen, Sens. Ronald Russell, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly, Usie Richards, Sammuel Sanes, Celestino White, Alvin Williams and Carlton "Ital" Dowe. Sen. Patrick Sprauve was absent.


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