CHCC, DPW disconnections on hold
CUC says breakthrough reached in negotiations with CHCC
Tag: CHCC, disconnection, DPW, power
The Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s plan to disconnect power and water services to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and Department of Public Works did not push through yesterday as the Department of Finance filed a dispute letter, while acting governor David M. Apatang presided over a meeting with the parties to continue negotiations.
A CUC statement last night said it held off the scheduled disconnection of CHCC’s power and water supply following a breakthrough in negotiations early evening last night.
CUC was scheduled to disconnect CHCC at 6pm yesterday, Thursday, May 4, but following nearly two weeks of back-and-forth, “the negotiations have finally borne fruit. As a result, the Commonwealth’s primary utilities provider held off in shutting CHCC from its main power and water grid.”
Acting CUC executive director Betty Terlaje said the negotiation breakthrough was reached at around 7:15pm last night. Details will be forthcoming.
“Both sides have been diligently negotiating for the past two weeks, and progress was made this evening,” said Terlaje.
CHCC owes CUC $53.6 million in outstanding balance as of March 31—reflecting overdue accounts through March 2023 for electric, water, wastewater charges and late fees.
This developed as CUC board chair Janice A. Tenorio disclosed that they issued disconnection notices yesterday afternoon to the Legislative Bureau, Rota Mayor’s Office, Tinian Mayor’s Office, Saipan Mayor’s Office, Saipan Judiciary, and Northern Marianas Housing Corp.
Saipan Tribune learned that CUC also issued a disconnection notice to the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality.
Apatang presided over the meeting with CUC, CHCC, Department of Finance, and their legal counsels and two lawmakers in the governor’s conference room yesterday afternoon in a bid to resolve the dispute.
In an interview shortly after the meeting, Apatang said they have been holding the meeting for almost a week now and that there is still no outcome. He said they are still going back and forth trying to figure out where CHCC can come up with additional funding and an agreement with CUC on how they will pay their monthly utility billings.
Apatang said CUC has to wait until CHCC can get help, as the corporation is expecting a substantial Medicaid reimbursement.
“I asked CUC to please just consider holding off disconnection today,” said the acting governor as he expressed concern over the patients at the hospital.
Apatang said they want to make sure that if any disconnection is going to happen, CHCC is ready to generate its own power for the hospital.
He said they pretty much agreed to put off the disconnection until Tuesday, where they can invite other members of the Legislature to join them and continue negotiations until they come up with a solution.
“I asked them, ‘Don’t cut off [the power] tonight and wait until we reach an agreement at least [until] Tuesday when the governor comes back so he can be involved,’” Apatang said.
He said it’s a major issue and that they need the hospital to be operational.
CUC served a disconnection notice to CHCC and DPW for failure to pay arrears for power, water, and wastewater services that have now reached $53.6 million and $1.12 million, respectively, as of March 31, 2023.
Separately, Tenorio said yesterday that they are still in the middle of negotiations with CHCC and that she is not sure when is the new deadline to disconnect will be. Tenorio said they are hoping to have a final decision this morning, Friday.
With respect to DPW, she said Finance, on behalf of DPW, submitted a dispute claim and that this temporarily suspended their disconnection.
CHCC executive director Esther L. Muña said they are waiting for their new memorandum of understanding with CUC to resolve the issue.
Muña said they will look at the terms of the new MOU. She did not elaborate.
Finance Secretary Tracy B. Norita said that, on behalf of DPW and the central government, they filed Wednesday a dispute letter before CUC and that this temporarily prevented the disconnection to DPW.
“We were reviewing our billings and outstanding payments in the system and they do not match the disconnection notice that was provided. And so we asked CUC to delay until further review,” Norita said.