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WAPA Board Approves Frenchmans Bay Road Project

(Friday, October 25, 2013)

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board on Friday approved the St. Thomas Frenchman’s Bay Road Project at a cost of $339,900. The project, which runs from Mandela Circle to the Authority’s Frenchman’s Bay Water Pump Station, is part of a Federal Highway Project with the Department of Public Works and will entail relocating overhead primary power lines and pole mounted transformers with secondary service to an underground system. The funds used for the project are from a Federal Highway grant, with no internal funds needed.

Once completed, underground power lines allow the Authority to offer improved electrical service reliability and quick recovery after inclement weather.  The Havensight area will be free of overhead lines and transformers, making it more aesthetically pleasing.  Clinton Hedrington, WAPA’s Director of Transmission and Distribution, explained that this type of collaboration with the DPW is what the Authority has done and will continue to do in order to get as many lines underground as possible. He noted that currently the transmission system is 75 percent underground on St. Thomas and 100 percent underground on St. Croix.  The majority of underground work is now needed on the distribution system to further improve the reliability of the system.  Board members applauded the efforts of getting the projects planned with DPW, thereby not having to dig up the roadways more times than necessary.

The Board also approved a one-year extension, with General Electric Power & Water (GE) for GE TM-2500 with existing or improved lease terms, at a cost of $7.8 million.  The Authority initially entered into a lease with GE for the gas turbine (Unit 25) in 2011 to provide temporary emergency generation.  The lease was amended in 2012 to allow the Authority to perform maintenance on the other generating units while having a reliable back up source in case of emergency.  Friday’s approved lease extension allows for continued critical and deferred maintenance on existing generating units in the upcoming year while simultaneously maintaining an efficient operation with flexibility and reliability of power generation resources during the upcoming conversion of the combustion turbines to burn Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)/propane at the Randolph Harley Power Plant.

In Friday’s “WAPA Working for You” segment, Nicholas Lazare, a St. Croix line supervisor, used a transformer display to explain to the Board what sometimes happens when power is lost at a pole.  Transformers are used to step down the power produced at the power plants to voltage usable in homes and businesses. Lazare clarified that the loud “pop” usually heard when power is lost is not normally the transformer, but a blown fuse on the line. He explained how it is critical that crews patrol the lines to find the source of the problem prior to replacing the fuse and restoring power to the line. Executive Director Hodge spoke highly of the commitment of WAPA’s linemen to ensuring customers get reconnected, even during bad weather.  “We have to call and tell them to ‘stand down’ when the weather gets too bad,” said Hodge. “They would try to stay in the field and work in extreme weather conditions trying to get the system back up. It’s really commendable. ”

“Through continuous improvements in the distribution systems, fault detection and correction have become a quicker process,” Lazare said.  WAPA Working for You segments present monthly opportunities for Board members and employees to learn more about how each carries out their responsibilities to the Authority.

Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge, Jr. reported on the progress of the LPG-propane project.  Hodge noted that the engineering designs are now complete and the storage vessels are currently under construction in Belgium.  He indicated that propane should be flowing through the system by September 2014, and the project will be fully online in October 2014. Hodge lauded the efforts of WAPA’s management team for ensuring the project remains on track.  Board member, DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes also commended the Authority’s staff who have been working with DPNR on the Coastal Zone Management permits for their tenacity and attention to detail in getting the applications completed.

The Board also took the following action:

Approved a change order for $23,829 with Elephant Construction Consultant, for the design, purchase, construction and installation of four metal air conditioned insulated buildings to house East End and Tutu Substations’ 15KV and 34KV switchgears located at Estate Nazareth and Estate Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. The total cost of the project is now $239,178.

  • Approved the purchase of a new trencher with rock wheel attachment for $219,580 from Vermeer Caribbean, Inc. The trencher will be used to dig trenches, especially for laying pipes and cables.  It will improve the capability of the Water Distribution Department for large scale pipe or duct bank installation. Funding for the trencher is through a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior.
  • Approved the amendment to a contract with Evertec, Inc. for additional funding, not to exceed $50,000, for continued document scanning. Upon completion, the project will provide a central document storage/retrieval system for the Authority that will allow access to documents from any of the Authority’s locations simply and efficiently.  It will also cut costs by eliminating fees being paid for storage of documents including customer records.  The total project cost will not exceed $400,000.

Board members in attendance at Friday’s meeting were Chairman Gerald Groner, Secretary Noel Loftus, Elizabeth Armstrong, Donald Francois, Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes, Planning Committee Chair VIEO Director Karl Knight and Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Wayne Biggs. Vice Chair Juanita Young and Cheryl Boynes-Jackson were excused.