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Waste Authority Scrutinizes Finances

July 26, 2005 – V.I. Waste Management Authority board members peppered Deandre Atwell, chief financial officer, and Executive Director May Adams Cornwall with questions Tuesday about where the authority's money was going and how it was being documented.
Board member Gloria H. Canegata-Waterman said her experience dealing with the Legislature told her that all these "gray areas" and "black holes" would not be acceptable.
Most of the discussion was carried out in public session in the conference room at Government House in Christiansted, but discussion of one item — $621,000 in "other expenses" — was put aside for an executive session.
Canegata-Waterman's first questions came because the projected expenses in Atwell's report were about $750,000 less than the government allotment for the authority. Atwell said that was because there were vacant positions in the department, and they would be filled in the upcoming year.
Canegata-Waterman was adamant that all the figures be documented. She said, holding up Atwell's report, "Someone just seeing this report could say, 'Oh, they don't need the money. We can give it to another department.'"
Adams presented seven contracts for the board's approval. Some of the contracts received relative easy approval. They included a refueling station, a 500-gallon above the ground fuel tank to be constructed at the old Department of Public Works yard on St. Thomas for a cost of $239,950 and the purchase and installation of a BioSet sludge unit at a cost of $270,000.
The board also quickly moved on a $325,000 downward adjustment in a contract with Elipse MME. Adams reported this was possible because the mapping and analysis of the sewage collecting system was being done in-house on St. Croix. Board Chairman Winston Adams noted, "The more we can train our people to do, the better off we will be."
The contract that fell under the most scrutiny was with Alvin Williams Trucking to clean up the Red Point area. The original contract called for the company to be paid $112,000 to remove 18,000 cubic yards of material. The company had to remove 40,000 cubic yards, so the staff was recommending an additional payment of $173,000.
This did not make Canegata-Waterman happy. "May I ask why the additional material was more expensive than the original material?" she asked.
Adams said the additional material included a buried bulldozer and other buried vehicles. Canegata-Waterman refused to vote for the additional payment. George Phillips, board member and acting commissioner of the Public Works Department, also abstained from voting. The measure passed with two affirmative votes – those of Adams and Keith Richards.
A payment of $531,000 to Energy Answers did not get approved. A contract with that company was terminated May 31. However, the company did emergency work on three different pump stations after the contract expired. Board members asked for documentation supporting those costs.
The meeting was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. but did not start until almost 11 a.m. In the afternoon, the board entered into a lengthy discussion about the adoption of its proposed bylaws.

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