The V.I. Water and Power Authority had a big pay day recently, to the tune of $5 million, thanks to another agency paying up on years of back due bills.
During Tuesday’s V.I. Waste Management Authority board meeting, executive director Roger Merritt Jr. announced that Government House has paid the multimillion-dollar debt dating to August 2019 owed by the authority to WAPA.
Now that the authority has a clean slate, it is in discussions on how WAPA will be billed for trash pickup and use of the territory’s wastewater system.
“Historically, we’ve never presented an invoice or bill to WAPA since the authority’s existence. We both provide a service to each other, and we need to be compensated for that,” Merritt said.
Merritt reported the authority has had good conversations with WAPA in regards to billing for services.
Along with WAPA, Merritt said the authority is focused on paying all existing vendors and any outstanding debt. In July, the authority paid out $2.3 million to contractors, haulers and other vendors.
Tipping fees are one way the authority will be able to generate more income to cover costs. The fees are determined by the type and quantity of waste being delivered to a disposal facility.
The fees were approved by the Public Service Commission in 2017 and generated about $17,000 in one day alone in the St. Thomas-St. John district. However, the fees were halted after hurricanes Irma and Maria and by disagreements over solid waste on St. Croix.
Merritt said a series of public hearings will be held before tipping fees are fully operational by April.
Waste Management is also focused on providing better signage at bin sites to prevent illegal dumping.
“People from the community go to a bin site and they don’t know what they can and can’t throw away,” Merrit said.
In general, one group that can’t use bin sites is businesses. Most businesses are required to have a permit or use a permitted waste halter to dispose of trash.
To combat illegal dumping, the board discussed the use of cameras and increased surveillance. The authority would work with V.I. Police and the courts system to issue citations, but it was not clear who would be responsible for monitoring the cameras.
The authority is working to amend contracts with contractors to clarify what will happen and what will be charged following an emergency.
After the 2017 hurricanes, many contractors gave out higher “emergency” rates.
“We would have the information there, dated before the potential emergency, no questions or gray area,” Merrit said.
“I’m excited about the direction we are going,” said Merritt, who is celebrating his one year anniversary as executive director.