PSC Denies VIWMA’s Proposed Environmental User Fee System

The Public Services Commission unanimously voted against the V.I. Waste Management Authority’s controversial proposed environmental user fee at a Wednesday evening, November 28, meeting, according to published reports.

The plan was designed to make the VIWMA self-sufficient by levying an environmental user fee scaled by weight on all items imported into the territory. The fee would have raised the price of every single item brought into the Virgin Islands, from milk to mufflers.

Lambasted as an attack against middle class Virgin Islands residents by further increasing the cost of living and doing business, residents across the territory celebrated PSC’s denial of the fee program.

“I am thrilled and very happy that the proposal was turned down as it was,” said Kate Norfleet, St. John representative of the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce.

With the plan denied, however, the territory’s waste woes have not gone away, Norfleet added.

“Now we really need to get down to knuckles and figure out how we are going to clean up the mess,” she said. “The mess is still here and we have to deal with it. We also have the federal mandates that we have to answer to still.”

The VIWMA’s proposed wastewater fee, however, did get the PSC’s go-ahead — with restrictions. The commission voted to allow the proposed new wastewater fee schedule which would raise the fee for property owners connected to the public sewer system to $110.97, according to a report in the V.I. Daily News.

The fee was approved on a temporary basis for 18-months and VIWMA officials must submit information regarding fee collection and wastewater operational needs to the PSC, according to the report.

DeJongh Nominates Steve Simon for WMA Board  

Well-known local musician Steve Simon was nominated last week by Governor John deJongh to replace Brion Morisette, whose term has expired, on the V.I.

Waste Management Authority board of directors. Once approved by the V.I. Legislature, Simon will serve a three-year term.

Simon has a strong business background and has served in several leadership positions, according to a press release issued by Government House.

“I was approached by the governor, who felt that my strong background in business would be an asset to the board and to the Authority, as they are facing some very serious challenges,” said Simon. “I felt that I had an obligation to serve the governor and to serve the community by applying my years of business experience to the challenges of the Authority.”

Simon’s career spans 40 years, during which he built several multi-billion dollar businesses, he explained.

“My goal is to bring a fresh outlook from a business perspective to the Authority,” said Simon. “I am very proud to have been asked to serve. Fortunately, I have the time, inclination and, I believe, the business experience to help make a difference in the quality of life for all Virgin Islanders.”

The local businessman’s nomination coincides with last week’s rejection of the WMA’s proposed solid waste management fee schedule by the Public Services Commission. Simon has other ideas to help the WMA become self-sufficient.

“It appears to me from the outside looking in that there are many alternatives to the proposed fee schedule,” said Simon. “I trust that over the coming months as I get involved with the Authority, we’ll be able to explore all of those alternatives, in addition to prioritizing programs for recycling and power generation from waste — just to name a few.”

The local businessman’s new position will not stop him from raising private funds in an effort to purchase a new ambulance boat for St. John, he added.

“The ambulance boat is a rather fun task,” said Simon. “I’m enjoying it. We’ll get that done.”