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WAPA Taking Energy-Efficiency to the Streets

Attorney Gerald Groner reviews motion on water line construction before the WAPA board. Meeting at its St. Thomas headquarters Thursday, the V.I. Water and Power Authority approved the purchase of new energy-thrifty LED streetlights to replace older model streetlights.
The new lights will replace existing high-pressure sodium lights which used more energy and had a shorter life span.
The board approved the expenditure, not to exceed $820,000, which was funded through a $2.5 million grant through the V.I. Energy Office.
The contract awardee is Electric Supply of Tampa, which will provide Cooper Lighting’s roadway LEDs to brighten up the territory’s streets for many years to come.
Lights from five suppliers were evaluated, and had to meet both technical and performance specifications, as well as a requirement for manufacture in the United States. In addition WAPA’s evaluation team reviewed each company’s past performance.
The LEDs will fit into the existing “cobra head” light fixtures on telephone poles in the territory, according to Clinton Hedrington, WAPA’s director of transmission and distribution.
In addition to the energy-sipping quality of the lights—using less than half of the energy required by their predecessors—the LED lights’ life span of 60,000 hours is one of its big selling points.
St. Croix will receive 600 of the new bulbs, with St. Thomas and St. John receiving 400 and 200, respectively. The bulbs will be placed in areas under WAPA’s jurisdiction, which will not include highways, which fall under the purview of the V.I. Department of Public Works.
Replacement of the 1200 high-pressure sodium bulbs is scheduled for completion in December.
During Thursday’s meeting, board members got a first look at the authority’s preliminary year-end financial report . (The Authority concludes its fiscal year in June.)
Total revenue for WAPA’s electric system for the 12 months ending in June 2010 is $260 million, a 3-percent decrease in total revenues compared to 2009’s figures, according to a report prepared by Maurice Sebastian, WAPA’s assistant chief financial officer.
On the water side of the business, revenue was at $4.8 million, an increase of 4 percent, attributed to an increase in LEAC revenues and in metered customer revenues, according to the report.
“…The utility did manage to exceed the industry requirement of 1.25 and its internal requirement of 1.75 on its debt-service coverage ratio for the electric system with a ratio of 2.39 on its senior bonds and 2.03 on its senior and subordinate bonds for the fiscal year ending June 30,” according to a release from the Authority. “The debt-service coverage ratio is the ratio of cash or net revenues available to pay the principal and interest on money WAPA has borrowed by floating bonds. WAPA sets its standard above the industry, so for every $1 of existing debt, the company aims to maintain $1.75 of coverage. The higher the ratio, the better the possibilities of securing future loans.
Outstanding debts by government entities continue to plague the authority, with the V.I. Department of Health owing $941,154, the Schneider Regional Medical Center owing $405,693, Juan F. Luis Hospital owing $1.77 million, and the V.I.
Education Department owing $1.15 million.
The V.I. Department of Finance still has not paid the authority for street lighting, and the bill is now at $8.7 million. Funding for streetlights is legislated to come from 4 percent of the property taxes collected by the V.I. Government, but legal issues surrounding property tax bills have prevented the government from collecting, leaving WAPA footing the bill.
Board member Gerald Groner observed that the $2 million in expected revenues from the property bills now out for collection will hardly make a dent in the amount owed. He added that legislative action will be needed to address the shortfall.
On the water side, which Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. noted was the first word in WAPA, the receivables balance is $2.19 million with government agencies again the debt leaders. The V.I. Education Department owes $313,824, the Housing Finance Authority owes $633,224 and Juan Luis Hospital owes $643,230.
In other actions Thursday, the board also approved a plan to provide potable water service to 370 new water customers on St. Thomas.
The service will provide water from Estate Tutu as far as Hometown Gas Station in Anna’s Retreat Heights. The $4 million project is paid for with $2.3 million from the V.I. budget and $1.7 million from the $5 million Tutu Aquifer Settlement Fund, which is made up of damages paid by companies that contaminated the aquifer.
The project, awarded to Tip Top Construction, will also likely include a concurrent laying of fiber optic conduit, at a cost of $260,000, but the board’s action on that part of the construction was tabled pending formal procurement procedures. Completion of the project is expected in the first quarter of 2012.
The board also:
-extended time for phase 1 of the Pressure Management project on St. Croix due to funding delays and an eight-week lead time for receipt of materials.
The project is needed to reduce excessive pressure in the water system on St. Croix, which causes water loss and leakage, according to Rupert Pelle, WAPA’s Director of Water Distribution. The excessive pressure will be mitigated using pressure-reducing stations, with the benefits of reducing water loss, as well as reduced energy needs for pumping.
-extended its contract with Natural Builders, LLC by 41 days to August 31st to install fuel tanks and associated equipment for a WAPA fueling station adjacent to WAPA’s Richmond Plant. The extension accommodates a delay in funding.
In executive session the board approved:
– entering into negotiations to sell .21 acres of land adjacent to its proposed mid-island substation in Hannah’s Rest, Frederiksted, to Ka Ma Kris Sales, Inc.
– set parameters for the negotiation of wage reopeners, in accordance with contracts with two of its unions, which will end in FY2011. The wage reopeners provide for requests from the unions to come back to the authority for wage changes in the third, fourth or fifth years of their contracts.
The board also reelected the following officers to serve another one-year term: Board Chair Juanita R. Young, Vice Chair Brenda Benjamin and Secretary Noel Loftus.
In addition to Young and Groner, also present at today’s meeting were Cheryl Boynes Jackson, V.I. Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon Jr., Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Wayne Biggs, and Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Robert Mathes.
Loftus and Benjamin attended via viedeoteleconference from WAPA’s offices on St. Croix.
Board member Donald Francois was absent.

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