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HomeNewsLocal newsWaste Management Board Approves Funding for Important Contracts

Waste Management Board Approves Funding for Important Contracts

The V.I. Waste Management Authority board conducted a quick meeting Wednesday after a long executive session and approved funding for several significant contracts without much discussion.

Waste Management Agency board meeting participants included, from left, Roger Merritt, Jr., executive director, Harith Wickrema, LaToya Williams, Clifford Joseph and Norbert Rosado.
Waste Management Agency board meeting participants included, from left, Roger Merritt, Jr., executive director, Harith Wickrema, LaToya Williams, Clifford Joseph and Norbert Rosado.

To finalize payment for projects on St. Thomas and St. Croix, the board voted unanimously to approve a memorandum to arrange for increased vendor payments of more than $224,000 through the V.I Public Finance Authority for the Company Street sewer line rehabilitation project in Christiansted and a similar project in Anna’s Retreat on St. Thomas. VIWMA expended its 2016 budget and didn’t have the funds to pay for the work.

The St. Croix project was competed last December and cost $326,000 more because construction was completed working overtime at night for one month instead of paying regular salaries for three or four months, bringing the total cost of the project to around $709,000. The reason for nighttime work was to minimize inconvenience to downtown businesses and customers.

The Anna’s Retreat sewer line repair involved replacing more than 1,000 linear feet of pipe, rehabilitating two manholes and installing two new ones. The additional work, including road restoration, added $85,000 to the cost of the project, bringing the total to a little more than $265,000.

The other vote, called during the meeting, authorized an additional $17,500 for chemicals for an injection system at the Barren Spot pump station and manholes. Complaints of bad sewer odors from St. Croix Central High School and employees of the Superior Court over the last few years instigated the project. According to the change order, the odors are caused by the release of H2S gas in the sewer lines and chemicals will control the smell. The cost for the project will come in at a little more than $153,000.

Two votes had been approved previously on June 12 by four of five trustees and were recorded at Wednesday’s meeting. One provided approximately $1.6 million to pay solid waste collection contractors on St. Croix for the first seven months of the year. According to the poll vote document, the companies transporting residential and public/government waste work on a monthly basis.

The second poll vote was to authorize Roger Merritt, Jr. executive director, to enter into a contract for $713, 000 for the installation of a structural liner for the southwest interceptor sewer collection system. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of September 2017.

No further information was available about the project, as the meeting ended abruptly so members could attend another meeting.

During his brief report, Merritt told the board the financial condition of the authority “remains challenged” due, in part, to payables of $10 million and unfunded landfill and baling operations.

He also reported the Public Services Commission has approved waste disposal fees based on weight for St. Croix and volume on St. Thomas and St. John until scales are installed. During the last week, waste haulers on all three islands showed up at town halls meetings to question implementation and other logistics of the first-time charges. On St. Croix, stakeholder seemed to understand the need for a new revenue source.

“The businesses understood the authority can’t continue to operate the transfer plant without revenue to operate it,” Merritt said.

The fees could bring in slightly more than $7 million, he estimated at the St. Croix meeting.

According to Merritt, the judge overseeing a consent decree to bring the Anguilla landfill in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency requirements is “happy with the progress”. Large amounts of scrap metal and tires have been removed, he said. The EPA has set a June 30, 2020, date for closure and relocation of the Anguilla landfill and the St. Thomas landfill must not accept waste after April 30, 2019.

“The main thing (required by the judge) is tires and eliminating Zika. I told the court it will take nine to 12 months to remove all of the tires,” Merritt said. Spraying for mosquitos has increased from monthly to weekly, he added.

According to the WMA June financial statement, budgeted revenue for June was almost $2.7 million from the V.I. government, with no other projected income. Although, the General Fund payment was almost $29,000 less than expected, unbudgeted income was realized also from sewer connections, solid waste collection and special waste disposal. Although, revenue was slightly under budget, future income will include tipping fees from commercial haulers beginning Aug. 1.

Chief Financial Officer Deandre Atwell reported VIWMA expenses were over budget largely due to an increase of almost $300,000 in the cost of running the landfills, but personnel expenses were almost $120,000 below budget.

Overall, as of the end of June, VIWMA has earned $2.8 million.

Board members attending the meeting were Harith Wickrema, chairman, Norbert Rosado, LaToya Williams, Clifford Joseph and Gustav James, commissioner of Public Works, by video conference.

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