My grandfather, who was born in 1905, and weathered the Great Depression, had a strict rule about bill paying.

As far back as I can remember, every week his black and white notebooks were taken out and placed on the dining room table. He then sat down and proceeded to write, line by line, each bill he was paying. He wrote the day, amount and check number, as well as the day his payment was mailed.

This was Popie’s backup plan. His greatest fear was that a bill payment wouldn’t make it to a creditor. Before the time of automation and computers, his system was his pride. When in doubt, out came his black and whites. He knew his payments were a sign of good character and also that having good credit was a sign of honor.

The Virgin Islands needs a payment backup plan. The recent revelation that WAPA owes VITOL $100 million in payments for the propane conversion of generators makes our collective stomachs churn. And the reason we are queasy is that payment of this bill seems questionable.

Our community has gotten into the bad habit of authorizing huge services, and then backsliding when payments are due. No one puts funds aside for payment day, and when that day arrives we are in crisis. And this crisis could literally turn out our lights and leave us in the dark.

There has to be a better way than living in crisis mode, year after year.

Our current administration recognizes that getting back on track with our bill paying is critical and a top priority.

Our top official has stated that we need to pay old debts before incurring new ones, which has set our community on a new path in the right direction, to regain our credit and honor.

We must commit to these new ways, because living our lives by candlelight is not an option.

— Maria Ferreras is a longtime St. Thomas resident and community volunteer. She can be reached at