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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Charges that the Senate decision to hire a consultant to review the Turnbull administration's proposal to sell 80 percent of the Water and Power Authority to Southern Energy is a ploy to stall a decision until after the November elections are false, a senator who supports the sale said Wednesday.
Sen. Violet Anne Golden said the Senate’s vote Tuesday to contract an independent study of the deal that would give majority control of the utility to the Atlanta-based company for almost $400 million was a "prudent" move.
During the vote, Sen. Adelbert Bryan accused those supporting the study of being "cowards" for trying to delay the WAPA decision until after the fall elections. Golden, the only senator who has publicly announced her support of the deal, scoffed at Bryan’s statements.
"The allegation that it will take place after the elections is not true," she said. "We can’t wait until after the elections. We don’t have until November. For anyone to say we want to wait and we’re cowards is a sad commentary."
Golden said the majority bloc senators who voted for a consultant don’t claim to be experts in utility issues, and thus an expert, independent opinion is needed.
As "prudent public servants," she said, "we made a call I think was correct."
Golden wouldn’t speculate on how soon the study might be completed or when the Senate would vote on the matter. Southern Energy officials are hoping for a speedy turnaround.
"We don’t have a good sense of what the timetable is going to be," Southern spokesman Chuck Griffin said. "We hope the Legislature will deal with this situation in a prompt manner."
On Tuesday, Bryan made motions to require that the consulting contract be awarded by May 30 and that a vote on the sale take place by Aug. 15. Both motions were defeated.
Senate President Vargrave Richards didn’t return calls Wednesday regarding the consulting contract and the timeline for the Senate to vote on the deal. Richards said previously that he would call Committee of the Whole sessions on all three islands to get public input rather than have the proposal go through the normal subcommittee process.
While Golden said she didn’t know how much the consulting contract would cost, she did say it must go through the procurement process, including a request for proposals. She said the Senate would stipulate that the RFP be advertised for 10 days. The length of the contract could be 30 to 45 days, she said. "We only want to know if it is a good deal or not," she said.
Griffin, meanwhile, said Southern Energy understands the senators’ need to assess the proposed deal. But he added that the Senate should recognize that a multinational company like Southern "has to take into consideration the amount of people and resources that are tied up" the longer a decision is delayed.
"The proposal is what it is," Griffin said, "and we’re waiting for an up or down vote."

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