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WAPA Board Approves Spending, Eyes Finances

Jan. 4, 2006 –The V.I. Water and Power Authority approved funds Wednesday for engineering consulting services, purchase of cables and hardware for Feeder No. 8, and to extend through June its contract for tree-trimming services around power lines.
In the meeting at WAPA's Sunny Isle business office, WAPA Executive Director Alberto Bruno-Vega said that Power Systems Engineering will be supplying the consulting services to implement SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), a new technology that will allow personnel to monitor the whole power grid from a central location. He added that crews would no longer have to be sent out to substations to turn power on or off, or to make switches. He said with SCADA all that could be done from the power plant.
He added, "This is needed urgently as we are moving into a state-of-the-art electrical distribution system."
The board authorized the payment of $353,000 to the firm. It has already paid $102,000.
The board also authorized the payment of $200,000, plus a contingency payment of $20,000 for the project on Feeder No. 8. The total cost of the project, most of which has already been paid, will be $1.5 million.
The contract authorization with Asplundh for tree-trimming services will cost WAPA slightly less than a half million dollars.
Another payment approved by the board was $33,000 in assessments to the Public Services Commission. Daryl Lynch, chairman of the WAPA board, smilingly told the members of the media to kindly let the commission know WAPA is paying its bill. When Nellon L. Bowry, WAPA's chief financial officer, later told Lynch that another $117,000 in assessments had been billed to WAPA since those were paid, the smile left Lynch's face, and he started coughing and swore.
Lynch was smiling again when he presented Bowry two checks from Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital. The first check was a $50,000 payment on the arrears bills at the hospital. The other check was $244,000 for last month's bill. Lynch said that the hospital had agreed to pay off its arrears within three years. The first year it will pay $50,000 per month; the second year $75,000 monthly; and the third year $100,000 monthly beyond its regular bill.
The financial officers reported that WAPA's financial picture had improved as many government entities had made significant progress in paying off back bills in recent months. According to Bruno-Vega, the V.I. Housing Authority, now under federal receivership, successfully met its December 2005 deadline with a final payment of roughly $728,000 on its $ 4.2 million in overdue accounts.
Additionally, in a plan approved by the governing board in October 2005, government agencies will soon reduce their longstanding debts by almost $5 million dollars, which includes a $1.5 million appropriation from the Omnibus Act of 2005 and a credit for money WAPA owes the government for payment in lieu of taxes.
However, Bowry cautioned that WAPA was still in a financially precarious situation because it was unable to recover all the costs it had incurred because of the sharp increase in oil costs in recent months.
The board also authorized Bruno-Vega to explore the possibility of joining the Caribbean Electric Power Network, which would allow the V.I. to purchase cheaper power from a utility in Florida.
(See WAPA Considers 'Plugging In' to Florida Power Supply.)
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