June 8, 2001 — While the V.I. government has paid down millions of dollars in its years-old phone bill to Innovative Telephone, the company is disconnecting some phones in four departments because of a continued lack of payment.
The targeted departments are Health, Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Education, and Housing.
Holland Redfield, Innovative Communication Corp.'s vice president of corporate affairs, said that in December 1999 the Turnbull administration agreed to start paying down the executive branchs approximately $6 million phone bill. The figure is now about $1 million. But because of continued lack of payment by the four departments, ICCs new president and CEO, Thomas Minnich, has ordered some phones be disconnected.
"Were extremely pleased with the efforts the administration has made," Redfield said. "However, there are certain departments that are consistently in arrears."
Because of the lack of payment, some 60 lines have been terminated over the last three weeks in the four departments, Redfield said. That action came after Innovative Telephones president and CEO, Samuel Ebbesen, sent the offending agencies letters notifying them of what the company was going to do. Redfield declined to say how much each department individually owed.
"Basically we havent been getting a response, which is actually getting paid," he said. "We have only turned off nonessential phones. Its not a wholesale turning off of phones."
In March 2000, Innovative Telephone, formerly the V.I. Telephone Corp., and the Turnbull administration formed a task force to figure out how to pay off the government's bill and streamline its phone system to make it more cost-effective.
For the most part, the effort was successful, Redfield said, except for a few departments that have failed to pay their bills.
"We have been attempting to get their phone system as cost-effective as possible. However, we cannot and will not continue to supply service to departments that are in arrears," Redfield said. "Its unfortunate that we had to revert to this. But the government has to understand it has to budget for its utilities.
"The government has to be treated the same as the private sector," he said.