April 25, 2003 – Members of the Public Services Commission expressed their displeasure to the Water and Power Authority and the Public Works Department on Thursday about the state of the street lighting along Veterans Drive on St. Thomas and Melvin Evans Highway on St. Croix.
Commission member Verne David said he did a site visit on St. Croix to assess the situation. "To my dismay, there has been no improvement on the East End road as far as street lights are concerned," he said.
Valencio Jackson, commission chair, said Evans Highway has about 80 lights out. "The highway is black," he said. "That doesn't help crime. It creates more crime. There are no lights on St. Croix."
The Legislature and governor transferred responsibility for maintaining the territory's street lights to WAPA from Public Works on Jan. 1, 2002. However, Public Works still has the responsibility of maintaining the lighting along the Evans Highway and Veterans Drive.
"The department does not have the equipment nor manpower to get the work done," Public Works Commissioner Wayne Callwood told the commission on Thursday. "We can't do it unless we get the physical assistance from WAPA."
Glenn Rothgeb, WAPA's assistant executive director, argued that maintenance of the two highways is solely Public Works' responsibility under an agreement between the two parties. Rothgeb added that WAPA is responsible for paying Public Works for the expenses it incurs in so doing but is not prepared to assist further.
After several minutes of back-and-forth discussion, Jackson sent Rothgeb and Callwood out of the PSC meeting room to come to an agreement. The result was that WAPA and Public Works agreed to amend their agreement. The utility will pay a contractor to make needed repairs to the street lights under the direction of DPW. WAPA also will pay for bulbs and equipment needed.
On a vote of 5-1, the commission directed WAPA and Public Works to begin work on repairing and installing the territory's street lights by May 8 and for the repairs to be completed in 60 days.
In other business, the commission chose not to accept two of hearing examiner Frederick Watts' recommendations concerning Innovative Telephone. Watts had recommended that the PSC reduce Innovative's authorized rate of return to 10.62 percent from the current 11.5 percent and that the phone company's Economic Development Commission benefits be included in the rate adjustment.
The commission voted to keep the rate of return at 11.5 percent and to not include the EDC benefits in the rate at this point because Innovative's benefits expire in September.
Also under telephone business, Atlantic Tele-Networks/Choice Communications brought two requests before the PSC. Daryl Dodson, attorney for Choice Communication, formerly Wireless World, once again asked that the company be recognized as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier. The company had made a previous request in February. Having ETC status would make Choice Communications a regulated public utility.
"We're seeking to have Choice come in and create a level playing field," Dodson said.
Although no formal survey had been done, Dodson said, there are demands for another telecommunications carrier.
PSC member Jerris Browne moved to designate Choice Communications as an Eligible Telecommunication Carrier but the motion did not carry. Commissioner member Alric Simmonds, who is the governor's deputy chief of staff, then moved to appoint a hearing examiner to review the matter; his motion passed on a 3-2 vote with Browne abstaining.
Choice Communications also requested DS3 line high-speed service from Innovative Telephone. Innovative has the telephone technology available but uses it in-house. The company uses DS1 lines to provide service to its consumers.
The commission voted 5-0 to direct Innovative to sell the DS3 line service to Choice — and to offer the service to consumers as well.
Innovative employee Arthur Joseph also addressed the commission. He stated that since the strike against Innovative Telephone and Innovative Cable TV last October and November, the phone company's level of service has dropped. Consumers have had to wait 30 days for repairs in some cases, he said, adding: "The PSC needs to require quality service from Innovative."
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