The V.I. Housing Authority has replaced the water pipes at JFK Housing Community, which is saving huge amounts of money, VIHA staff told the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, and said the authority plans to replace pipes at all its properties and bring more cisterns online, saving millions of dollars more.
"Our enduring number one goal is to direct all available resources to waterline infrastructure upgrades to reduce the annual utility consumption and expense by 20 percent each fiscal year until benchmark standard is reached," Graham told the committee. "Our investment in building systems, particularly waterline infrastructure, has yielded an annual utility savings of $1 million, which is reinvested in the properties," he said.
Graham said that as recently as 2013, VIHA public housing consumes more than 285 million gallons of potable water a year, for a nearly $10 million bill – amounts greatly increased by leakage and pilferage. He said VIHA accounted for 25 percent of WAPA’s entire water revenue for the territory in 2013. (See Related Links below)
Sen. Tregenza Roach asked what VIHA is spending currently on utilities and what upgrades would save.
Graham said VIHA is currently spending about $7 million a year on water and roughly $1 million for electricity.
VIHA Chief Operating Officer Lydia Pelle said the authority recently “did a full waterline replacement at JFK."
Pelle said the project cost about $1.2 million, but would pay for itself in about two years. She said JFK previously had water expenses of "over $100,000 per month," but "now it is less than $20,000 per month."
Roach asked if the losses were from leaky lines or from pilferage.
"A combination of both," Pelle said.
The authority is also adding cisterns to many of the properties, to reduce water costs more.
Sen. Marvin Blyden asked what sort of savings using cisterns would bring.
Graham said, "Off the top of my head, in general, it can probably reduce the water expenses at any given (housing) project by 50 percent, if there is no drought." He said if there is a drought, the cisterns would not have as much water in them, so they would not save as much.
Graham was there to discuss VIHA’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget. While under local control, VIHA is funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
And unlike the local agency budgets, “the Housing Authority’s fiscal year is the same as the calendar year,” Graham said.
The total operating expenses come to $24.9 million. That breaks down to $6.7 million for administration; $7 million for maintenance; and $3.1 million for general operations. VIHA anticipated getting $768,000 in revenues from its own operations – primarily tenant rent payments.
Senators also heard from the Magens Bay Authority on its budget. Magens Bay is autonomous, generates its own revenues and pays its own expenses. Magens Bay general manager Hubert Brumant said its budget projections for FY16 shows revenues of $2.4 million. Wages and salaries consume 74 percent of that, at $1.5 million.
Some of the Magens Bay Authority’s goals for the upcoming year include completion of the Smith Bay Park, remodeling the concession at the Magens Bay Park and promoting the arboretum as a live laboratory for students in the public and private schools, according to Brumant.