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PSC RATE PROBE OF PHONE COMPANY IS UNDER WAY

Jan. 25, 2002 – The Public Services Commission's rate investigation of Innovative Telephone, formerly known as Vitelco, is finally moving forward.
"I'm pleased to report that we're on track, and it's moving at the speed we expect it to," said Frederick Watts, the legal counsel for the PSC, who is conducting the investigation.
At a PSC meeting Friday, Watts reported that Innovative officials are cooperating fully with the investigation team, turning over accounting records and other documents as it becomes necessary to review them. Watts told the commission that he expects to make a preliminary report on the progress of the investigation in February.
Watts noted that the investigation findings could support lower rates, higher rates, or no changes in charges for local phone service. The purpose of the investigation is to give the PSC regulators a basis for making decisions on the phone rates.
The rate investigation stems from Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg's longtime efforts to look into the telephone company's finances. The Senate approved a bill mandating the investigation last year, along with investigations of other regulated public utilities.
The report Friday on the Innovative rate investigation was a sign that the PSC, with four new voting members and one newly reappointed, is moving forward after inaction on a number of pending issues. The newly constituted commission met for the first time in December, when it elected Desmond Maynard, the reappointee, chair.
All seven voting members — Jerris Browne, Verne David, Valencio Jackson, Maynard, Luther Renee, Alric Simmonds and Alecia Wells — were present Friday, along with non-voting member Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole. Sen. Emmett Hansen II, the other non-voting member, was absent.
In recent years, the PSC regularly had been unable to muster a quorum, leaving key issues of public utility regulation unattended to. That led Maynard and others to raise concerns about public perceptions of impropriety on the commission.
Also on Friday, the commission decided to postpone making a decision on whether to assess the Water and Power Authority about $30,000 to pay for an investigation into whether Caribe Waste Technologies should be certified as a provider of electricity. CWT has proposed a project to process the territory's solid waste in a way that would generate electricity, which it has further proposed to sell to WAPA.
The WAPA board rejected the purchase plan after its executive director, Joseph Thomas, said the utility is capable of meeting energy needs on its own and that the technology proposed by CWT has not been proven commercially viable. CWT then asked the PSC to order WAPA to agree to buy the power output.
Several PSC members said they thought it was unfair to make WAPA pay for an investigation into CWT's ability to produce energy, but Watts said the commission does not have the legal authority to make CWT pay for the investigation. And without funding, the investigation cannot move forward, he said.
A possible solution would be for CWT voluntarily to put up a $30,000 bond to cover the cost of the investigation if it does not receive certification. The PSC decided Friday to delay voting on the WAPA assessment until it hears whether CWT would agree to do that.

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