80.3 F
Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, May 22, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesPUBLIC FAVORS WAPA SALE, COMPANY POLL FINDS

PUBLIC FAVORS WAPA SALE, COMPANY POLL FINDS

Two days after Gov. Charles W. Turnbull briefed senators on the administration's proposal to sell 80 percent of the Water and Power Authority to Southern Energy Inc., the Atlanta-based company released the findings of a poll it commissioned earlier to take the pulse of the Virgin Islands public on its planned acquisition.
The results were overwhelmingly favorable, according to Chuck Griffin, spokesman for Southern Energy and its parent firm, Southern Company.
Essentially, the findings indicate that there is great dissatisfaction with the current quality of WAPA service and widespread support for the private company to assume majority ownership of the utility.
The information was collected via a questionnaire that asked for basic demographic information (name, island of residence, sex, age, employment status) and posed six questions.
In response to the first question — "Do you support a partnership between WAPA and Southern Energy?" — 77 percent of those whose answers were tallied territorywide said yes. However, there was a marked difference between the levels of support for the two districts — 90 percent on St. Croix and 63 percent on St. Thomas/St. John. Territorywide, support came from 86 percent of those working in the private sector and 74 percent of those holding government jobs.
Four other questions offered yes/no choices to indicate areas of concern about the proposed sale, the current level of service, commitments wanted from Southern Energy or any purchaser. The final query asked "What's the most important reason you're for or against a WAPA-SEI partnership?"
Throughout the questionnaire, the proposed deal, which would leave the government owning only the 20 percent of the utility that deals with power transmission and distribution, was described as a "partnership" — the term also employed by the Turnbull administration. The Friday release referred to the proposed new company as V.I. Electric and Water — or VIEW, a name made public after Turnbull met with senators behind closed doors Wednesday.
According to the release, the three areas of greatest concern were possible rate increases (78 percent), whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency would still be available to help in case of disaster (65 percent), and possible loss of jobs (61 percent).
Responding to the rates concern, the release stated, "The partnership agreement, now awaiting Senate approval, would keep base rates level for two years and then bring those rates down relative to inflation afterward." With regard to FEMA, with the government retaining ownership of the power distribution system — poles and lines — "the partners are seeking clarification from FEMA that such [disaster] support would continue, and the partnership is contingent on FEMA saying yes," the release stated. As to jobs, "The proposal protects the jobs and retirement benefits of union employees," the release said.
Griffin said the findings indicate a significant discrepancy between the two districts in terms of "how satisfied people are with the service at present." Residents of St. Croix expressed greater dissatisfation with both electric and water service than those of St. Thomas/St. John, citing power outages and water rationing as concerns.
The poll was conducted in two phases — via questionnaires filled out in person at the V.I. Agriculture and Food Fair on St. Croix the weekend of Feb. 19-21 and through telephone interviews on St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island March 3-13, Hugh Dalton of Dalton Associates Advertising on St. Croix said.
Dalton Associates handles local public relations for Southern Energy. Dalton said that his firm helped to draft the questions but the survey was designed and the polling conducted by Hinds Unlimited, a St. Croix firm owned by Claudette Young-Hinds.
Polling at the Ag Fair was a self-selection process for fairgoers who opted to stop at the survey table and complete a form. An incentive was offered — "a T-shirt or a hat if you filled out a questionnaire," Dalton said. About 658 people took part, he said, but only 350 of the responses, "selected at random," were included in the tally, because "we wanted to do the same size in both districts and didn't want to do 700 more and have 1,400 overall."
For the phone survey, the same questions were posed, by seven trained interviewers, two of whom spoke Spanish as well as English, Dalton said. He said each interviewer was assigned certain pages from the Vitelco directory and was instructed to select three names per page "at random — close your eyes and point" — to call.
A number of St. Thomas/St. John residents at the St. Croix ag fair completed questionnaires there, Dalton said, and collectively their responses were very similar to those subsequently collected for the district by phone.
Griffin and Dalton said the raw statistics from the questionnaires were weighted in the data analysis process to make sure the demographics of those responding matched those of the overall Virgin Islands.
According to the Southern release, the findings have a margin of error of "less than 5 percent." A 5 percent margin means that statistically the poll findings can be expected to be as much as 5 percent higher or lower than the actual opinions of the group about which information is wanted — in this case, Virgin Islands residents at least 18 years of age. In political preference surveys, where a couple of percentage points could make the difference in a close election, pollsters typically use a sample size of 1,500 or more to bring the margin of error to plus or minus 4 or even 3 percent. For a non-comparative "product evaluation" such as the proposed WAPA sale, a 5 percent margin is widely accepted.
The Southern release quotes Richard J. Pershing, president of Southern Energy's Americas Group, as saying, "We realize that some people might question the motive behind a poll we funded. I must emphasize, however, that we were seeking valid data to help us make decisions about moving forward with this partnership. We strongly prefer to be in communities where our presence is welcome."
Dalton noted that the survey was geared "not only at identifying support of the partnership but also at identifying the concerns of the stakeholders" — the utility customers, so that Southern could seek to address them. "We knew job security and rates were concerns," he said. "One we didn't know was going to be a major concern was the whole interest in FEMA."
As to the timing of the release of the survey findings, Griffin said, "We just got the final results a few days ago."
Griffin also said that the ongoing shortfall WAPA recently reported in revenues from its surcharge linked to the world market price of oil is not a major concern. "We believe we going to bring an increased level of efficiency that will stabilize the fuel surcharge," he said. "If you increase the efficiency of an operation, you reduce the overall costs of that operation." While the cost of oil may continue to rise, he said, "we won't be buying as much." However, he said before the company could project any figures, "we will have to actually get in there as an owner."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

STAY CONNECTED

20,771FansLike
4,719FollowersFollow

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more
Two days after Gov. Charles W. Turnbull briefed senators on the administration's proposal to sell 80 percent of the Water and Power Authority to Southern Energy Inc., the Atlanta-based company released the findings of a poll it commissioned earlier to take the pulse of the Virgin Islands public on its planned acquisition.
The results were overwhelmingly favorable, according to Chuck Griffin, spokesman for Southern Energy and its parent firm, Southern Company.
Essentially, the findings indicate that there is great dissatisfaction with the current quality of WAPA service and widespread support for the private company to assume majority ownership of the utility.
The information was collected via a questionnaire that asked for basic demographic information (name, island of residence, sex, age, employment status) and posed six questions.
In response to the first question -- "Do you support a partnership between WAPA and Southern Energy?" -- 77 percent of those whose answers were tallied territorywide said yes. However, there was a marked difference between the levels of support for the two districts -- 90 percent on St. Croix and 63 percent on St. Thomas/St. John. Territorywide, support came from 86 percent of those working in the private sector and 74 percent of those holding government jobs.
Four other questions offered yes/no choices to indicate areas of concern about the proposed sale, the current level of service, commitments wanted from Southern Energy or any purchaser. The final query asked "What's the most important reason you're for or against a WAPA-SEI partnership?"
Throughout the questionnaire, the proposed deal, which would leave the government owning only the 20 percent of the utility that deals with power transmission and distribution, was described as a "partnership" -- the term also employed by the Turnbull administration. The Friday release referred to the proposed new company as V.I. Electric and Water -- or VIEW, a name made public after Turnbull met with senators behind closed doors Wednesday.
According to the release, the three areas of greatest concern were possible rate increases (78 percent), whether the Federal Emergency Management Agency would still be available to help in case of disaster (65 percent), and possible loss of jobs (61 percent).
Responding to the rates concern, the release stated, "The partnership agreement, now awaiting Senate approval, would keep base rates level for two years and then bring those rates down relative to inflation afterward." With regard to FEMA, with the government retaining ownership of the power distribution system -- poles and lines -- "the partners are seeking clarification from FEMA that such [disaster] support would continue, and the partnership is contingent on FEMA saying yes," the release stated. As to jobs, "The proposal protects the jobs and retirement benefits of union employees," the release said.
Griffin said the findings indicate a significant discrepancy between the two districts in terms of "how satisfied people are with the service at present." Residents of St. Croix expressed greater dissatisfation with both electric and water service than those of St. Thomas/St. John, citing power outages and water rationing as concerns.
The poll was conducted in two phases -- via questionnaires filled out in person at the V.I. Agriculture and Food Fair on St. Croix the weekend of Feb. 19-21 and through telephone interviews on St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island March 3-13, Hugh Dalton of Dalton Associates Advertising on St. Croix said.
Dalton Associates handles local public relations for Southern Energy. Dalton said that his firm helped to draft the questions but the survey was designed and the polling conducted by Hinds Unlimited, a St. Croix firm owned by Claudette Young-Hinds.
Polling at the Ag Fair was a self-selection process for fairgoers who opted to stop at the survey table and complete a form. An incentive was offered -- "a T-shirt or a hat if you filled out a questionnaire," Dalton said. About 658 people took part, he said, but only 350 of the responses, "selected at random," were included in the tally, because "we wanted to do the same size in both districts and didn't want to do 700 more and have 1,400 overall."
For the phone survey, the same questions were posed, by seven trained interviewers, two of whom spoke Spanish as well as English, Dalton said. He said each interviewer was assigned certain pages from the Vitelco directory and was instructed to select three names per page "at random -- close your eyes and point" -- to call.
A number of St. Thomas/St. John residents at the St. Croix ag fair completed questionnaires there, Dalton said, and collectively their responses were very similar to those subsequently collected for the district by phone.
Griffin and Dalton said the raw statistics from the questionnaires were weighted in the data analysis process to make sure the demographics of those responding matched those of the overall Virgin Islands.
According to the Southern release, the findings have a margin of error of "less than 5 percent." A 5 percent margin means that statistically the poll findings can be expected to be as much as 5 percent higher or lower than the actual opinions of the group about which information is wanted -- in this case, Virgin Islands residents at least 18 years of age. In political preference surveys, where a couple of percentage points could make the difference in a close election, pollsters typically use a sample size of 1,500 or more to bring the margin of error to plus or minus 4 or even 3 percent. For a non-comparative "product evaluation" such as the proposed WAPA sale, a 5 percent margin is widely accepted.
The Southern release quotes Richard J. Pershing, president of Southern Energy's Americas Group, as saying, "We realize that some people might question the motive behind a poll we funded. I must emphasize, however, that we were seeking valid data to help us make decisions about moving forward with this partnership. We strongly prefer to be in communities where our presence is welcome."
Dalton noted that the survey was geared "not only at identifying support of the partnership but also at identifying the concerns of the stakeholders" -- the utility customers, so that Southern could seek to address them. "We knew job security and rates were concerns," he said. "One we didn't know was going to be a major concern was the whole interest in FEMA."
As to the timing of the release of the survey findings, Griffin said, "We just got the final results a few days ago."
Griffin also said that the ongoing shortfall WAPA recently reported in revenues from its surcharge linked to the world market price of oil is not a major concern. "We believe we going to bring an increased level of efficiency that will stabilize the fuel surcharge," he said. "If you increase the efficiency of an operation, you reduce the overall costs of that operation." While the cost of oil may continue to rise, he said, "we won't be buying as much." However, he said before the company could project any figures, "we will have to actually get in there as an owner."