WAPA may move St. Thomas office from Beltjen Plaza to Four Winds

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ST. CROIX - The V.I. Water and Power Authority is considering relocating its offices located at Beltjen Place on St. Thomas to a location in the Four Winds Plaza shopping center, but its governing board tabled the discussion on Thursday without making a decision on the main components of the move and lease agreement or how they will make preparations for the newly identified space.

WAPA Chief Operating Officer Gregory Rhymer said during the board's monthly meeting that the utility's customer service, meter-reading, revenue assurance and collections divisions currently are in the Beltjen Road building, but the property recently was purchased and the new owners gave notice they will need the space.

WAPA moved into the Beltjen Place building in July 2012 after a fire destroyed part of their offices in Sub Base on St. Thomas. The terms of the lease at the time was $15,000 per month, with operating expenses not to exceed $3,000 a month.

WAPA had been in a year-to-year lease, and Rhymer said extensive renovations are going on now at the property, which has limited the amount of parking space and created a chaotic atmosphere with heavy equipment and machinery moving in the area.

He said the environment has created an emergency situation for WAPA to avoid any liability issues, and they have identified an area in the shopping center that the utility intends to lease at a cost of less than half the amount per square foot than they currently are paying.

During discussions about the new space, the board was unable to come to an agreement about the length of the contract they would request from the landlord of the Four Winds space or how it would schedule its options for renewal.

In the request for action to the board, Rhymer had asked the board to approve a contract with APEX Construction to build out the 7,750-square-foot space to suit the needs of WAPA's employees and customers. However, board members decided that, despite the urgent situation, they would request three additional bids and voted to table the discussion until a special meeting takes place to resolve the matters.

Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. was out of the territory Thursday, leaving Rhymer to speak on his behalf. Also absent were Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes and Cheryl Boynes Jackson, who was excused.

Those board members present also authorized the major inspection and repair of Unit 17 Gas Turbine at the Richmond Plant on St. Croix, which will cost $2.6 million and will be broken down into three phases.

Phase I will include disassembly and inspection of the unit; Phase II will deal with repairs of known major components; and Phase III will include additional repairs based on inspection deficiencies found in Phase I.

Rhymer said Unit 17 is an integral part of efficient operation at the power plant and the project will ensure reliable operation, correct any potential forced outages and allow the plant to operate with flexible maximized efficient configurations at most times.

All board members in attendance also voted to rescind the award of the excess liability insurance policy to Marsh Saldana Insurance in the amount of $1.3 million and instead award it to Theodore Tunick and Company for a policy in the amount of $1.5 million.

During discussion, Rhymer said Marsh Saldana missed the deadline to complete 100 percent placement of the coverage, and the task to secure the coverage was given to Theodore Tunic and Company and was completed.

He said an identical situation occurred with providing property insurance with a $2.3 million policy, and when Marsh Saldana failed to provide the coverage, John L. Wortham and Sons insurance company was tasked to secure the coverage at a cost of $2.1 million before the current coverage expired.

The board also unanimously approved requests for:

- Authorization to amend the scope of work for Dashiell Contract to include the installation of a fully wired and functional cubicle to be used as a spare 25-kilovolt switch gear at a cost of $14,500 and also to authorize an amendment to the scope of work on another contract to include the installation of duct banks diverting conduits away from the substation ground grid at a cost of $102,900.

- A one-year contract to Asplundh Tree Experts for tree-cutting services throughout the territory at a cost not to exceed $935,875.

- Authorization to approve a change order for $24,500 for installation and termination of underground high voltage cables for the Frenchman's Bay Road Project on St. Thomas. The project will mean improved aesthetics and electrical service reliability as well as quick recovery after storms and also will correct clearance violations.

- A one-year contract with Comprehensive Security Services not to exceed $706,500 to provide security services in the St. Thomas-St. John District from July 2014 to July 2015.

- A one-year contract with Intelligence Security not to exceed $657,100 to provide security service on St. Croix between July 2014 and July 2015.

- The creation of local bank accounts for Water System Line Loss and one for Electric System Maintenance Surcharge as a result of two separate orders from the Public Services Commission to have the accounts segregated and use the funds specifically for projects to reduce line loss and fund WAPA's maintenance programs respectively.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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