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Cruz Bay
Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Dec. 21, 2001 – The Public Services Commission on Friday unanimously elected attorney Desmond Maynard to be its chair in its first action with a majority of new members.
Maynard, who is beginning his second term on the commission, was a vocal critic in his previous term of actions taken by the board under the chairmanship of Walter Challenger.
Earlier this year, Maynard told a Senate committee that he believed the PSC had lost the public's trust and had gained the reputation of letting slide its duties of overseeing the territory's public utilities — local telephone service, inter-island ferries, cable television, water and electricity.
Friday's PSC meeting on St. Thomas started with the newly confirmed commissioners taking their oath of office, and then they quickly got down to work. All seven voting commissioners — Maynard, Luther Renee, Verne David, Alecia Wells, Valencio Jackson, Jerris Browne and Alric Simmonds — attended the meeting. The two non-voting members, Sens. Donald "Ducks" Cole and Emmett Hansen II, were absent.
David, Jackson, Browne and Simmonds are all new to the commission. David asked that the record show he lives on St. Thomas, not on St. Croix, as was reported in a Source article earlier this week.
After electing Maynard its chair, the board voted 4-3 to elect Renee vice chair. Wells also was nominated for the position. Both are previous commission members whose terms have expired but who by law can continue to serve until successors are named.
Maynard thanked his colleagues for their support and then outlined some of his objectives for the commission. "It's our intention to try to enhance the stature of this commission," he said.
Renee also noted some of the problems the commission has seen. "I suspect the consuming public has lost confidence in us," he said. "The utility companies may have lost some confidence in us. The senators think we have not been forthcoming. We get hit from all areas."
The commission then got down to business, quickly approving non-controversial interconnectivity contracts between Innovative Telephone and several wireless, cellular and long- distance phone companies doing business in the territory.
The commission also voted to hire an investigator to gather information about a proposed contract between the Water and Power Authority and Caribe Waste Technologies, which was selected by the administration to build and operate a plant to process the territory's solid waste. The contract called for WAPA to buy electricity from CWT that would be produced in the waste processing. At its November meeting, the WAPA board turned down the deal.
CWT has petitioned the PSC to review the matter, challenging allegations made by WAPA's executive director, Joseph Thomas, that the technologies the plant would use are unproven commercially. If the commission decides in favor of CWT after its investigation, it could direct WAPA to buy power from the company.
In other business, the PSC voted to accept the recommendation of its legal counsel, Frederick Watts, and not proceed with a rate investigation of the territory's cable television providers. Watts said the commission does not have the statutory authority to conduct such an investigation and would have to get the approval of the Federal Communications Commission if it wanted that oversight.
The PSC voted to apply to the FCC for that approval.
A rate investigation into WAPA practices also has stalled, as WAPA has filed papers in Territorial Court asking that the appointed hearing investigator, Ronald Russell, be taken off the case. WAPA has not turned over requested documents to the investigator for about six months.
WAPA attorney Samuel Hall Jr. said Russell is suing WAPA in an unrelated case, and that the utility company believes it has the right to work with an investigator who does not have an outside interest in its records. Both Hall and Thomas stressed that they had no reason to question Russell's integrity personally, but that they would oppose any investigator who was involved in other litigation against the company.
The PSC voted to hold a hearing at which WAPA must show why it has not turned over the documents.
The rate investigation itself is not expected to move forward until Territorial Court Judge Ive Swan rules on WAPA's request to have Russell removed as investigator.

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