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WAPA Calls Out Isle 95 Owner Jonathan Cohen For Non-Payment of Bills

hugo hodge

         WAPA CEO Hugo V. Hodge Jr.

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – The Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority accused the owner of the territory’s most popular radio stations of being disingenuous for taking his stations off the air today in a dispute over bill payments.

WAPA’s Hugo V. Hodge Jr. said today he “denounced, in the strongest possible terms, a radio ad running on stations owned by Jonathan Cohen as nothing more than an outright lie and a propaganda campaign generated in a bid to win community sympathy for Cohen’s chronic failure to pay for the electrical service his radio stations have utilized.”

Cohen is the owner of a network of radio stations on St. Croix which includes the popular Isle 95 and both WSTX AM & FM. Cohen did not immediately respond to Virgin Islands Free Press requests for an interview.

“Cohen has had a history of delinquent accounts with WAPA dating back to 2013, which include returned checks for insufficient funds and failure to maintain numerous payment plans designed to assist his stations in remaining on the air. Cohen’s debt at times has topped $175,000,” Hodge said.

In the Virgin Islands Free Press component on Facebook, Beatrice Benjamin-Gumbs came to the defense of Cohen.

“But, in a sense WAPA outrageous rates shutting down businesses though….” Benjamin-Gumbs wrote.

Hodge, who is also WAPA’s CEO, said that “he understands and appreciates the role that all radio stations play in service to the community especially in times of emergency, however, WAPA administers a disconnect and delinquent policy that is administered fairly and across the board to all of its customers, residential and commercial.”

“I am flabbergasted at the lack of tact taken by Mr. Cohen in airing an outrageous and inflammatory commercial that attempts to blame WAPA for his decision to take his stations off the air,” Hodge said. “WAPA has bent over backwards for years now to work with Mr. Cohen to address his debt and keep his account up to date, which he has simply failed or refused to do.”

Hodge also noted that for several months the stations have been off the WAPA grid and operating on standby generator power as Cohen has simply refused to address his debt to the public utility.

“Today’s decision for the stations to go silent has nothing to do with the debt to WAPA but instead is a desperate attempt to win public sympathy where no sympathy should lie,” Hodge said. “If there is anyone whose actions are questionable and unethical, it is those of Mr. Cohen.

“I could not allow his baseless and grossly exaggerated claims about WAPA being the reason for the stations shutdown to go unanswered. What is contained in the radio ad is nothing but an outright deception, an argument that has no merit and could not withstand the most basic of litmus tests. It is truly unfortunate that the loyal listeners of these stations who have put their trust in what is imparted via these broadcast facilities are being misled in such a wanton and gross manner,” Hodge said.

The executive director/CEO said that the “Authority remains available to Mr. Cohen to address his delinquency should he desire to return electric service to his radio stations and resume broadcasting to the Virgin Islands community.”

“WAPA has a policy for delinquent and troubled accounts such as Mr. Cohen’s that has to be fairly enforced. The Authority simply cannot continue to allow a delinquency to grow without taking steps to collect what is owed…such a practice would be unfair to both WAPA and to those customers who pay their bills on time,” Hodge added.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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