Public Services Commission members finally decided to take disciplinary actions against V.I. SeaTrans officials after the company failed to show up to a Tuesday night meeting on St. Thomas.
The PSC said SeaTrans, the franchise ferry company that runs the route between St. Thomas and St. Croix, has never paid an assessment and does not consistently maintain its schedule. PSC member Donald "Ducks" Cole said he personally has seen SeaTrans picking up cruise ship passengers when they should have been taking people from St. Thomas to St. Croix.
PSC Executive Director Keithley Joseph said he spoke to SeaTrans attorney Frank Schulterbrandt about attending Tuesday’s meeting and was told that the attorney would be off island and unable to make it. Joseph said he asked for something in writing, but received nothing.
PSC Chairman Joseph Boschulte said he had spoken to a representative earlier in the day who said SeaTrans was not coming, but other members said the attorney is not the owner of the company, so his being out of the territory is no excuse for SeaTrans not to show up at the meeting.
Cole motioned for the board to fine SeaTrans and send on a recommendation to the Attorney General’s Office for possible action. The fine is $100 per day for every day the company is out of compliance with its franchise agreement.
Boschulte voted against the motion, while Cole, Verne David, M. Thomas Jackson and Elsie Thomas-Trotman voted for it.
The PSC also moved ahead with two other petitions on its agenda. The first one from the V.I. Water and Power Authority seeks clarification on a recent PSC order authorizing WAPA to refinance a $40 million loan and pay for it through the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (LEAC).
The loan is for three years, with a five-year amortization period. Over the three years, WAPA will pay the principal and interest off at a lesser rate, which will help lower the LEAC. But after that, there will be about $19 million left over, and WAPA and the PSC will have to reconvene to discuss how it will pay off the balance.
The PSC voted Tuesday to allow WAPA to recover the entire $40 million through the LEAC, but WAPA will still have until December 2012 to come back to the PSC to formalize how it will pay off the balance.
The commission also granted a petition from Centennial Communications to relinquish the company’s eligible telecommunications status (ETC). Centennial petitioned for ETC status a couple years ago so it could receive federal Universal Service Funds, which it no longer plans on collecting since it was recently bought by AT&T.
AT&T Executive Director Greg Follensbee said Tuesday night that AT&T does not receive federal Universal Service Funds in the U.S. Virgin Islands and does not intend to do so in the future.
Board members attending Tuesday’s meeting were Boschulte, Cole, David, Jackson and Thomas-Trotman. Board member Sirri Hamad was absent.