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Senate Committee OKs Putting Energy Office Under Governor's Office

Nov. 29, 2007 — With no discussion, the Senate Government Operations and Consumer Protection Committee agreed Thursday to shift responsibility for the V.I. Energy Office from the Planning and Natural Resources Department to the governor's office.
All six senators at the meeting voted yes.
The change would help focus government effort and attention on finding solutions to the territory's energy problems, Karl Knight, policy advisor to Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Bevan Smith, director of the Energy Office, said at a Nov. 9 committee meeting. No vote was taken at that meeting because the committee lacked a quorum.
The bill and two others passed at Thursday's meeting still need approval by the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee and the full Senate as well as the governor's signature before they become law.
The senators amended a bill authorizing the Public Finance Authority to identify, negotiate and finance the purchase of real property for government office complexes on St. Thomas and St. Croix to exclude St. Thomas. Legislation calling for an office complex on St. Thomas already exists.
"This is a very important measure for St. Croix because it consolidates government offices and will improve services to residents," Sen. Ronald Russell said.
Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, who chaired the meeting, said it will improve government operations and efficiency.
Sen. Liston Davis abstained, but the other five senators at the meeting voted yes.
The third bill discussed at the meeting was amended in its entirety to increase the rate paid to the Government Employees Retirement System by the V.I. Water and Power Authority for its hazardous duty employees from .5 percent of an annual salary to 1 percent.
Malone said that the central government had supplemented the payments made by WAPA, but now the utility will have responsibility for the total payment.
Sen. Alvin Williams initially took issue with the bill because he said that forcing WAPA to pay more would place a burden on the utility.
"One of the problems at WAPA is the lack of payments by the central government," Williams said, referring to unpaid government utility bills.
Malone said WAPA owes GERS $777,166 for retirement contributions.
All six senators at the meeting voted yes.
In addition to Malone, Davis and Williams, committee members Sen. Carlton Dowe, Sen. Basil Ottley and Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville attended the meeting. Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson was absent.
Non-committee members attending included Russell and Sen. Louis P. Hill.
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