WAPA rewards failure and punishes the public
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In real life, when you do not perform at your job, and you fail to do the tasks you were hired to do, you get fired.
In light of this, I can't help but wonder why WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. still has his job.
He's clearly not good at it, yet he continues to go to work each day, getting paid way more than other utility executives in United States cities of comparable size, and way more than most customers, according to reports by the American Public Power Association. APPA reports salaries for positions, including utility managers, within the public utility industry.
Hugo Hodge Jr. makes $180,000 a year, plus car and gas. That is far more than what many utility managers make who are responsible for major cities with millions of residents, as compared to the Virgin Islands, which has about 40,000 customers and total population of less than 110,000.
The national average salary for general managers for utilities serving 20,000 to 40,000 customers is $151,778. Why is it that we're paying $100,000 more to Mr. Hodge? Could it be that the Virgin Islands' powers-that-be actually think he is doing a good job? If that's the case, we're in more trouble than I thought!
Just so we don't forget, the WAPA board makes policy and Mr. Hodge runs WAPA based on those policies. The board members are Wayne Biggs, Karl Knight, Alicia Barnes, Juanita Young, Donald Francois, Cheryl Boynes-Jackson, Brenda Benjamin, Gerald Groner and Noel Loftus.
The inefficiencies in the WAPA generators have been known for years, yet little or nothing has been done to truly fix the issues. Seventy cents of every dollar we give to WAPA is wasted on antiquated, inefficient, oil-gobbling equipment. No doubt, some duct tape has been applied over the years, but Mr. Hodge has not seen to it that they have been properly maintained or fixed, or has he been insightful and innovative enough to get us a whole new system.
Isn't this part of his job description: Keep the islands powered up in the most efficient, cost-effective way?
And how is it that WAPA is just now looking into alternative fuel sources? For years and years, we have all known the oil cost was out of control, and yet the WAPA board and Mr. Hodge are just now getting bids and looking into propane and natural gas?
Talk about waiting until the 11th hour!
The Daily News' investigative analysis by reporter Lou Mattei published on Oct. 1 disclosed that it would be several years before we could realize any benefit from the other fuel sources.
Meanwhile, the exodus of residents and businesses leaving the islands is in full swing and will continue over those "several years," and businesses will be closing their doors.
Congratulations, WAPA: You are turning our thriving island paradise into a ghost town! Or maybe we're headed to the same fate as Jamaica and its all-inclusive resorts where tourists are encouraged not to leave the property because of severe crime. Financial desperation can drive a society into full-blown violence.
Despite the National Renewable Energy Lab and the Energy Development for Island Nations telling WAPA that the Virgin Islands should be able to accommodate around 50 percent contribution from solar power - if WAPA modernizes its grid and does what's necessary to make that possible - Mr. Hodge has consistently downplayed WAPA's ability to handle more than about 15 to 20 percent solar.
Why is Mr. Hodge committed to failure and to drowning the Virgin Islands public with staggering power bills?
The never-used windmills at Tutu Park Mall are a classic example of WAPA fighting modern, green energy efforts - so much so that those wind turbines are now expensive, rusted, useless lawn ornaments.
And let's not forget the absurd net metering laws. God forbid people take their energy issues into their own hands and try to do the smart thing. A household is allowed to generate only 20 kilowatts for residential use even though the average household uses over 1,000 kilowatts a month. Extortion is a word that comes to mind, and it might as well be at gunpoint since they threaten to cut off our power if we don't obey.
What kind of nonsense led the PSC to approve the LEAC 25 percent hike - without WAPA even having to provide the proper paperwork? The PSC members are Donald Cole, M. Thomas Jackson, Verne David, Sirri Hamad, Elsie Thomas-Trotman, Joseph San Martin. Cole is on leave while campaigning for a Senate seat and David was absent for health reasons.
Jackson said that if WAPA doesn't rally and supply certain reports and documents, the PSC will roll back the LEAC.
So, PSC gives WAPA the increase, even though WAPA and Mr. Hodge did not supply what it should have - more evidence of incompetency - and the people get stuck with another hefty LEAC increase.
If PSC does roll it back, will WAPA credit us back the fraudulent increase? It'll never happen.
Let's not forget the millions of dollars the V.I. government owes WAPA. We, the residents and businesses, are shouldered with paying the government's bills plus our own. Because of this government's mismanagement of funds and senators stealing $6.9 million dollars while they sit in their remodeled, cushy air-conditioned offices, the rest of us either sweat, daydreaming about how nice it would be to be able to afford A/C, or join the crowd packing up and moving to the states.
- Donna Pagano, St. Thomas