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WAPA Amends, Increases Request to PSC for More Revenue

Members of the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s board voted Thursday to increase the amount it is seeking in emergency petitions to the Public Services Commission.

The vote was made during the board’s regular monthly meeting.

In May WAPA had filed a petition with the PSC to increase revenues from water rates by $2 million, and from electric rates by $15 million.

Further analysis suggested to WAPA’s management that the increases were not sufficient to address the authority’s cash shortage, according to a statement provided by Maurice Sebastien, WAPA’s acting chief financial officer.

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Based on that analysis, the board voted Thursday to amend the petitions, raising the electric-rate revenue request by $1.211 million to $16.211 million, and the water-rate revenue request by $576,000 to $2.576 million.

The board also agreed to execute the closing certificates required for a $12 million draw on its general obligation note for electrical system working capital. The draw will be used to pay Hovensa for outstanding balance due on fuel.

In other action, the WAPA board:

– Voted unanimously to approve an emergency overhaul of generator No. 20 on St. Croix. The generator was scheduled for overhaul between July 1 and September 30. But a routine maintenance inspection revealed signs of significant deterioration, and when the unit tripped offline in May, WAPA engineers were unable to restart the generator. Along with generating electricity, unit 20 provides heated gases for use in the waste heat recovery system of unit 24, and the inability to use 20 is costing the utility millions of dollars in fuel costs, WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge said.

The repairs will cost about $1 million and take three to four months.

– Approved a $370,900 project to install an underground power line and transformer system as part of its Main Street Hazard Mitigation project on St. Thomas. The program will be paid for through grant funds from the Federal Emergency Management Administration. According to Hodge, placing the existing above-ground system underground will prevent loss of power from line breaks;

– Approved a contract for phase two of the Christiansted underground installation of feeder one. The project will be 75 percent funded by FEMA, and will cost $2.079 million

– Authorized the executive director to negotiate and enter into a contract for emergency restoration services in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster that is beyond the ability of WAPA to repair with its own resources.

Hodge told the board the in the last few years storm damage was mild and the utility was able to cope with it on its own, but in case of severe damage, WAPA needs to be ready to call in help. Hodge was authorized to negotiate with Bison Electric Inc., BBC Electrical Services Inc., Sumter Utilities Inc., Dillard Smith Construction Co. and Power Secure Inc.

The board pointed out that no money is spent unless and until emergency help is needed, and Hodge said that agreements are worked out with more than one company in case one of the companies is also affected by the same event.

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