WAPA OKs $225K contract for new office at Four Winds Plaza

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ST. CROIX - The V.I. Water and Power Authority governing board had its monthly meeting Monday on St. Croix and among action items unanimously voted on, the board members authorized Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. to enter into a contract allowing WAPA to move its customer service office on St. Thomas to Four Winds Plaza.

WAPA moved into its current space in 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.

The new owners of the property decided earlier this year that they would not renew WAPA's lease, sending the utility scrambling to find a new location.

In his presentation to the board to justify the design and build-out services contract with Bryan's Electric not to exceed $225,000, Director of Corporate Services Norris Griffin said the property at Four Winds is readily available but required building out to meet WAPA's need.

He said an inspection revealed that the electrical system is inadequate for WAPA's needs, and they were forced to find a contractor to design and simultaneously build the electrical system in conjunction with the spacing build out under WAPA's supervision with no up-front payment.

Griffin told board members that the scope of work requires disconnection, relocation, re-connection, testing and servicing of WAPA's emergency generation system from the old Sub Base location and that needed hardware and equipment to complete the job.

He said Bryan's Electric was the only contractor that indicated they would be able to procure, design and build accordingly without up-front funding, and they were the only contractor to have the bulk of the supplies readily available and the ability to buy the remaining items within the limited time frame with a proposal that was deemed reasonable and fair for the overall work scope.

With the approval, Griffin said WAPA will begin moving small items into the Four Winds location as early as Wednesday, but the bulk of the moving will be done Friday and during the weekend.

He said customers will be able to make payments and handle business at the Beltjen Place location through Friday, but after the long Labor Day weekend, all operations for customer service will start up at the Four Winds location.

WAPA also is moving towards making changes with the way it handles its billing, and on Monday, the board authorized Hodge to enter into a contract with Evertec Group LLC at a cost of $1.4 million over three years to provide billing and mailing services through 2017. Gregory Rhymer, WAPA's chief operating officer, said the move to contract the service will benefit WAPA with its re-structuring efforts, allowing them to focus more on customer service efforts and realize additional savings of as much as $70,000.

In other action Monday, the board unanimously voted to:

- Approve a consignment contract with Electric Supply of Tampa Inc. not to exceed $926,000 in the next fiscal year with an option for a one-year extension for the supply of transmission and distribution line materials. The contract is expected to help WAPA have access to large frequently used materials at a moment's notice, especially during hurricane season.

- Award a $390,000 contract to Precision Ice-Blast Corporation to clean the heat recovery unit super heater tubes and to ice blast the stack and outer walls of the unit and paint them.

- Authorize an increase to the contract awarded to V.I. Paving by $137,000 to fund a temporary bypass on the Richmond 24-inch Transmission Line Upgrade project on St. Croix and purchase an additional two magnetic flow meters. The board also authorized an extension of the project deadline by 90 days.

Water Distribution supervisor Rupert Pelle said the bypass will allow the contractor to tie the new 24-inch transmission manifold to the existing pump station without disruption of service to customers. He said the project will improve water quality to customers in the area, reduce line loss and increase reliability.

All board members with the exception of Donald Francois and Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Wayne Biggs Jr. were present at Monday's meeting.

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

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