JULIO RHYMER RESIGNS! Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Governing Board Accepts Resignation
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Julio Rhymer is out at WAPA!
That’s the startling unconfirmed report the Virgin Islands Free Press got early today.
The embattled Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority CEO Rhymer has struggled to connect 50 percent of the territory to electricity more than three months after Hurricane Irma hit St. Thomas and St. John.
A top WAPA official was asked if Rhymer had indeed been sacked and the source said: “No comment. There’s nothing official yet.”
The nine-member WAPA governing board met in executive session last night and accepted Rhymer’s resignation.
Rhymer, who’s primary area of expertise is finance, will be named the director of the Office of Management and Budget, replacing Nellon Bowry who is retiring.
WAPA will have to find a new CEO to run the much-maligned Authority which is said to be destroying Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s slim chances of re-election on a daily basis.
Rhymer spent about 15 months officially in the job of CEO/Executive Director of WAPA. He was installed by the WAPA governing board in August of 2016.
Before that, he had been acting CEO/executive director since January of 2016. Rhymer started with WAPA as its chief financial officer in 2012.
He had no formal training in electrical distribution systems or management prior to the board hastily putting him into the position after they sacked former CEO Hugo Hodge Jr. Hodge and Rhymer are natives of St. Thomas.
Rhymer’s colleague, Ricardo Ramos, the embattled executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) resigned Nov. 17 rather than be fired.
WAPA officials asked federal officials for 2,000 linemen to repair the territory after Irma and Hurricane Maria, according to officials.
But WAPA and Mapp have not been able to secure even 200 linemen for the territory and electrical restoration has been perceived to be languishing despite having about 170 additional linemen here from the U.S. mainland working seven days a week.
The Authority is governed by a nine member board of public and private sector members.
Mapp selects the three public sector members of the Board from his Cabinet. Presently they are the Marvin Pickering, Director of Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Devin Carrington, Commissioner of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, and the Nelson Petty, Jr., Commissioner Designee of the Department of Public Works.
The six private sector board members are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Virgin Islands Legislature for three year terms. Private sector members are from each district.
The St. Thomas/St. John/Water Island district private sector members are: Juanita Young, Secretary and Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee, Cheryl Boynes-Jackson, and Hubert Turnbull.
The St. Croix district private sector members are: Elizabeth Armstrong, Chairperson, Noel Loftus, Vice Chairperson, and Gerald Groner, Esq.
WAPA claims to have restored at least 25,000 customers to electricity — most of them in St. Thomas.
Rhymer, Groner and Petty did not immediately return messages left for them seeking comment on Saturday.
Here’s what WAPA say about electrical restoration in the territory.
- On St. Thomas, some customers were restored in the following areas: Lindbergh Bay, Solberg, Altona, Caret Bay, Dorothea, Frenchman’s Bay, Bolongo, Hawk Hill, Scott Free, St. Peter Mountain Road, Estate Pearl, Nadir, Tutu Valley and Sapphire Village.
- On St. Croix, some customers in Clifton Hill, Estate Whim, William’s Delight, Campo Rico, White Bay and White Lady were restored. Fifty customers on Feeder 2A from The Buccaneer Hotel to Villa Madeline were also restored.
- On St. John, additional customers on Pocket Money Hill, San Soucci, Upper Fish Bay, Great Cruz Bay, Carolina and Bordeaux were restored.
- On Friday, the Valdemar Hill Sr. Drive, “Skyline Drive” on St. Thomas, will be closed to vehicular traffic from 8:30-11:30 a.m., and again from 1-4 p.m., as crews perform reconstruction work and debris removal. The road closure will be in effect from the intersection of Louisenhoj Castle to the Donoe Bypass. Area residents will be allowed to access their homes during the road closure. Alternate routes are available for motorists who must traverse the area.
- The WAPA Customer Service office on St. John will resume operations on Friday, December 8, 2017. The St. John office will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Due to internet connectivity challenges, limited service will be available at this location. Until further notice, only checks, certified checks and money orders will be accepted as a form of payment. Cash and credit card payments will not be accepted until further notice. Customers must provide account numbers in order to process all transactions.
- Customers are reminded that homes with temporary roofs (blue roofs) will be restored with electrical service once a licensed electrician has certified, in writing, that the structure is safe to energize.
- If work needs to be done to repair a damaged meter base and/or weather head, customers must call the Emergency Call Center at 340-774-1424 on St. Thomas-St. John or 340-773-0150 on St. Croix. The call centers operate seven days a week, 9 am – 5 pm.
If your electric meter was removed by WAPA personnel to facilitate repairs to either a meter base and/or weather head, once repairs are completed and a licensed electrician certifies the work, in writing, customers are required to notify the Customer Service office. All fees usually associated with meter removal and reconnection have been waived during this restoration period. Customer service offices operate Monday-Friday, 9 am – 4 pm at Sunny Isle on St. Croix and Port of Sale Mall on St. Thomas.
Reconstruction, restoration and hurricane debris removal crews are deployed across the islands. Motorists are asked to exercise caution when driving through the work areas and to heed the directions of flaggers and VIPD officers who are assisting with traffic control.
Residents are reminded of the need to shut off standby generators when line crews are in your neighborhood restoring electrical service. A standby generator has the potential to back feed electricity to the grid which poses a severe safety risk to restoration crews.
POTABLE WATER SYSTEM
- There are six days of emergency water storage on St. John, eight days on St. Thomas, and five days on St. Croix.
- WAPA urges clean-up contractors and homeowners in both districts to exercise caution when piling debris on and around potable water meters. There are a growing number of instances where water meters are being damaged by clean-up equipment grading debris and causing damage to the roadside water meters. The continued damage by heavy equipment poses difficulty in maintaining or restoring potable water service to customers.
WAPA telephone contact: St. Thomas – St. John district, (340) 774-3552; St. Croix district, (340) 773-2250.
Customer Service Offices operate Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Sunny Isle on St. Croix, and at Port of Sale Mall on St. Thomas.
The latest information on the restoration effort is available on the WAPA website, www.viwapa.vi and on Facebook: Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority.