Published On: Mon, Jun 3rd, 2024

Power cuts lead to heated debate on social media

PHILIPSBURG — The detrimental situation at utilities company GEBE has triggered a fierce debate on social media on Saturday in which former Finance Minister Ardwell Irion, former GEBE-director Jerome Chittick and even former Public Health Minister Emil Lee took part.

See: https://www.facebook.com/StMaartenNewsOnline/posts/pfbid02ec5Egpi73zAnN46fb96za7xeeoiLyr43mmVrFjSyJG6tBmoUHBefSz9aY1bFvbxRl

Lee probably made the most valuable contribution by stating: “The blame game is not productive. The focus needs to be on what the solutions are. We have spent enough time ignoring the problem. St. Maarten needs to make some hard decisions, quickly.”

MP Irion claims in a Facebook-post that the current level of power cuts at GEBE only became an issue during the last two quarters of his term. He furthermore noted that management never advised about the maximum capacity output and that management and supervisory board were “in a constant back and forth on which entity should be the financier for the generators.” Irion notes that the financing was a political decision and that GEBE management was told by the Council of Ministers to proceed urgently with the purchase of new generators. To no avail: “GEBE management refused to push our sustainable plans as they saw it as competition.”

Irion’s remark about competition triggered a question from David Salomon: “What steps did you or the Council of Ministers take to rectify this?”

Jerome Chittick, the former Chief Executive Officer at GEBE, clarified his position by stating that his management board left office on October 2020. Since that time many projects have become a reality. Chittick mentions the reopening of the Westin, massive construction in Porto Cupecoy and near the Simpson Bay police station and a massive project in Cole Bay. “All these projects call for electrical consumption.”

Chittick furthermore states that GEBE partnered with a local bank for the financing of new generators adding that this bank signed the loan agreement waiting for GEBE’s signature. “A past foreign financier which has been a loyal partner since 1999 and which is not the same bondholder as the one at the airport, never asked for any collateral. The loan was approved in 2020 and ready for GEBE to purchase new power generating units.”

Chittick suggests to initiate an operational audit to bring to light what really happened. He states that the supervisory board went against the strategic plan put together by the management board and the employees. “They had no clue what they were doing other than fighting the management board to get rid of them.”

Lastly, Chittick points out that since 2020 there have been five changes in leadership at GEBE and that there is still no complete management board.

And then a fire broke out at 6:20am on Sunday morning at the GEBE power plant in Cay Bay.

For Immediate Release 
June 2, 2024
NV GEBE would hereby like to report that there was a fire at the Cay Bay Power Plant.  This morning, around 6:20 AM, a fire broke out on Engine 9 at the NV GEBE Power Plant due to issues with the auxiliary boiler. Engine 9 has been in operation for over 30 years, surpassing its technical lifespan. The fire department was called in immediately and successfully contained the fire, preventing major damage.
A standby generator was activated to assist with load capacity during the incident. Engine 8 sustained some cabling damage due to the fire on Engine 9, and assessments on Engine 8 are ongoing.  
We are pleased to report that all personnel at the power plant are safe, and no injuries were sustained. The safety of our staff is of utmost importance to us, and we are thankful that everyone is unharmed.  
NV GEBE would like to express our gratitude to the fire department for their prompt response, which averted any major damages to our power plant. We also commend our dedicated staff for their hard work and cooperation during this incident, ensuring the safety and reliability of our operations remains our top priority.  
More information will be provided as it becomes available as a full damage assessment is ongoing. 
Photo provided. See below….