WAPA and Health Department share $1.5 million Interior Department grant
Published: September 19, 2012
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The U.S. Interior Department has awarded the V.I. Water and Power Authority and the V.I. Health Department approximately $1.56 million for projects to improve services.
A $461,357 Maintenance Assistance Program grant to WAPA will provide $67,000 for WAPA to conduct staff training and $394,357 for the utility to purchase new equipment, a Government House release said.
The equipment includes a valve maintenance truck system, trencher, drilling machine and a roller machine, said WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn.
The machines should help improve WAPA's ability to maintain and service its water system, she said.
The money for training will allow WAPA engineers to attend American Petroleum Institute training, so that they can qualify to inspect the integrity of water storage tanks, evaluate damage and prepare comprehensive reporting on the rehabilitation process to the utility's Water Department, Dunn said.
In addition, there will be some Occupational Safety and Health Administration training for WAPA staff on how to recognize, avoid and prevent safety and health hazards in the workplace, she said.
"It's important that we provide a safe workplace," she said. "This will be grant monies well spent."
WAPA executive director Hugo Hodge Jr. said in the release that the grants came at a crucial point.
"They have come at such a critical time, as we have been cutting the costs of capital projects tremendously by using our in-house expertise at a greater scale and with more confidence," Hodge said.
The equipment purchased with the grant money will reduce construction costs of small-size water rehabilitation and maintenance projects by more than 30 percent, while increasing WAPA's ability to respond more quickly to routine tasks and to emergencies, Hodge said in the release.
V.I. Health Department
Of the $1.1 million in Capital Improvement Program awards for the V.I. Health Department, $734,000 will go for repairing and retrofitting the Eldra Shulterbrandt Residential Facility and $366,000 will go to repair and retrofit the facility's annex building, which opened in July.
The Eldra Shulterbrant Facility on St. Thomas is the territory's long-term care facility for the mentally ill.
Mentally ill patients first moved into the Shulterbrandt facility, which had just been renovated and refurbished, in 2004. Before that, Health had been housing them at the dilapidated Michele Motel.
Health Department spokeswoman Eunice Bedminster said Wednesday that the grant money for the main Shulterbrandt facility will go for roof repairs and electrical and plumbing infrastructure upgrades.
Bedminster said the Health Department would also be using some of the money for investing in alternative energy to reduce energy consumption, but she did not know the specifics or what kind of alternative energy would be used. Also planned are security system upgrades and installation of a commercial grade kitchen and laundry equipment at Shulterbrandt.
Patients moved out of Shulterbrandt and into the new Shulterbrandt Annex, which is next door, in July, so that repairs could be done on the main facility, she said.
"Once the renovation is completed and together with the additional bed capacity of the new ESF-annex, the territory will have a combined 61-bed facility available to care for its most vulnerable residents," acting Health Commissioner Darice Plaskett said in the Government House release.
The newly constructed annex also needs repair and retrofitting, according to the Government House release.
The annex needs to have its kitchen upgraded to commercial kitchen standards, and the roof needs to be retrofitted to cut down on electricity consumption, Bedminster said.
Bedminster said she could not say why a commercial kitchen - or the energy efficient measures - were not included in the annex as it was being constructed.
Assistant Interior Secretary Anthony Babauta told Gov. John deJongh Jr. about the grant awards, and the governor thanked him, according to a prepared statement Government House released.
- Contact reporter Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email email@example.com.