Waste Management sees usage fees as key to its future

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ST. CROIX - V.I. Waste Management Authority officials on Friday discussed the progress the agency has made since it was created 10 years ago, as well as plans for the future.

The discussion occurred at the Waste Management Authority's Board of Directors' annual meeting at the Arawak Bay Inn on Friday afternoon.

Waste Management Authority Executive Director May Adams Cornwall gave her annual presentation on the state of the authority "in the context of the authority's achievements over the past decade with an eye towards the next decade."

The V.I. Waste Management Authority was created 10 years ago, in January 2004, and Cornwall discussed its background and history as well as current issues and plans.

She said the agency's overall financial picture is improving and noted that the authority has also implemented a new financial management system that she said "will remove a long-standing deficiency in the audit of the basic financial statements regarding internal controls for various financial processes."

Waste Management is taking steps to bring its external audits up to date, she said.

The Fiscal Year 2010 audit of basic financial statements was released in April 2013, and the final draft of the audited financial statements for FY 2011 and FY 2012 is scheduled to be complete in March, she said.

She noted that the external auditor identified deficiencies in four areas: in financial reporting, financial analyses and financial management system; in internal controls for various financial processes; in the lack of adequate safeguard of assets: and in untimely remittance of withholdings to government agencies.

The auditor issued recommendations, and Waste Management has prepared corrective action plans to address the deficiencies, Cornwall said.

She also spoke about declining government appropriations over the years and expending the last of some bond proceeds. She spoke of the need for the authority to generate more of its own revenues.

"With these trends, it is evident that the viability and sustainability of the authority rests solely on its ability to generate revenues for the cost of services and to secure capital funds for the replacement of existing and the development of new infrastructure," she said. "Therefore, the authority's highest priority must be the development of its Ten-Year Strategic Plan, which, among other things, must incorporate the goals and objectives of a Financial Sustainability Plan."

Waste Management has formed a Revenue Generation Committee to develop fee structures, projected revenues and implementation plans to be included in a revised Financial Sustainability Plan framework, according to Cornwall.

The authority's Revenue Generation and Wastewater Planning Committees are working to assess and bill customers for Wastewater User Fees at an increased rate conditionally approved by the Public Services Commission, while the authority's Revenue Generation and Solid Waste Planning Committees are working to finalize and submit a Special Waste Fees proposal to the PSC by the end of this quarter, she said.

In addition, before the end of the fiscal year, Waste Management plans to submit a proposal to the PSC concerning commercial tipping fees for the disposal of solid waste at the landfills and transfer stations, she said.

She talked about the 2013 accomplishments in the authority's two major service areas, wastewater management and solid waste management, as well as what other departments in the agency have accomplished. She spoke about the consent decrees under which the agency is operating.

She also talked about the future.

"As the board and management turn the corner and look toward the next 10 years, it will be very important to have a paradigm shift to bring strategic planning mandates into the forefront of our near term focus in order to take the authority to the next level," she said.

At the meeting, the board also elected officers for the upcoming year.

The board voted to keep Darryl Smalls as its chairman and Dodson James as its secretary for another year.

Valdamier Collens was chosen to be board vice chairman, a post that had been empty.

The board members present were Smalls, James, Collens, LaVerne Ragster and Norbert Rosado. Rosado, a new board member, was sworn in at the beginning of the meeting.

Smalls said the plan this year is to change the Waste Management board meeting schedule from monthly to once every other month.

He also said he wants the board to take up the question of increasing the executive director's spending authority. He said it was up to the executive director to put forth a proposal in that regard. Currently, the executive director has the authority to spend up to $50,000 without board approval.

The annual meeting followed a retreat for the Waste Management board and upper-level managers.

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