CONTANT-ENIGHED — You could call it a sign of recovery. The Water and Power Authority Business Office has opened its doors again.
But the manager in charge on the second floor of the St. John Marketplace says so far customer traffic has been slow. In announcing the restoration of customer service, a WAPA spokesman said office hours will be limited for now.
WAPA’s St. John office reopened on Friday. Utility officials say agents are on hand to assist with payment of bills and reconnections.
“The WAPA Customer Service office on St. John will operate on an abbreviated schedule until further notice,” said Communications Director John Greaux Jr., “The office will open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.”
But Greaux reminded customers that WAPA faces some of the same recovery challenges as its customers. Telephone land lines and Internet service are spotty or missing. Account information may not be readily available.
Then there are the bills themselves. St. John Business Office Manager Eurece Hendricks says customers should expect two bills between now and the first of the year.
“For St. John, there were no bills since August, in some cases late July. So the bills they’ll be getting are from that period up until Sept. 5 or Sept. 6. By January, then, we’ll start billing customers from Sept. 6 up until the meter is read,” Hendricks said.
As for the time gap in between, the WAPA manager said there’s no charge. Billing is computed according to the number of days electrical and water meters indicate that service was delivered, the manager said.
The other reason St. John customers will want to visit the business office is to let line workers know their readiness to reconnect when service returns to their area. Up until now, Hendricks said, the practice has been for residents to approach linemen in the field.
“We’re asking customers to come to the office instead of going to the line department or stopping the crews in the field,” she said.
As of Dec. 10, 27,000 WAPA customers have had electrical service restored, territory-wide. The most recent round of restorations included St. John customers in Carolina, Chocolate Hole, John’s Folly, Pastory, Saunder’s Gut, Adrian, Glucksberg, and Quaco & Zimmerman.
Greaux reminded residents of the need to shut off standby generators when line crews are nearby. The potential of electricity feeding back into what are supposed to be inactive distribution lines poses a severe safety hazard, he said.
Updates on service restoration can be found online at WAPA’s website, www.viwapa.vi and on the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority Facebook page.
Those who wish can reach WAPA through an emergency call center where a service representative can be reached between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number to call is 340-774-1424 in the St. Thomas-St. John district.