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HomeNewsArchivesDRIVERS NIX FEES; KING SAYS IT'S UP TO LAWYERS NOW

DRIVERS NIX FEES; KING SAYS IT'S UP TO LAWYERS NOW

Nov. 26, 2001 – The taxi drivers won't pay for permits to take tours through the V.I. National Park, St. John Taxi Services representative Lorelei Monsanto said Monday. "If we have to boycott we will," she said.
Park Supt. John King responded that the park will turn the matter over to its legal department.
Come Jan. 1, anyone conducting a tour within the park without a permit will get a ticket, King said. "This is much ado about nothing. The fee is modest," he added.
Under its new Commercial Use Plan adopted last summer, the park is requiring tour operators, taxi associations and taxi drivers who take passengers on independent tours through the park to pay an annual fee. The park initially set the fees at $300 for independent drivers and $750 for associations and companies. After several meetings with industry members, King lowed the fees to $75 for independent drivers and $250 for associations and companies. There are no fees for drivers simply transporting passengers from point A to point B within the park.
All other commercial tour operators within the park, including those offering daysails, hiking trips and kayak excursions, pay annual fees ranging from $300 to $750.
"You've got to pay if you want to play," said Pam Heath, who with her husband, Brian, takes visitors on daysails in park waters aboard their sailboat, Fantasy. She said they pay $300 a year and have done so every year since they bought the boat in 1994.
Heath said the activities within the park have grown to such a point that the park management needs to have oversight over them all, including land tours.
After King and the taxi industry clashed at two public hearings and one private meeting in October and November, the fee issue remained at a stalemate. The St. John Taxi Services leadership agreed to come up with their best offer by Monday. The association's president, Randolph Thomas, wrote to King in a letter dated Nov. 25 that the matter rests with the roads.
The taxi association claims that the V.I. government owns the roads through the V.I. National Park. Therefore, the drivers say, the park has no right to force them to pay to use the roads.
However, King retorted: "This is not about who owns the roads through the park." He noted that national parks across the country have state and county roads running through them, and tour operators in those locations pay fees. He also has said that tour operators in all 385 of the other national parks pay fees.
Thomas wrote to King that tours do not include stops at any park facilities such as bathrooms or beaches. However, taxi drivers often discharge passengers at beaches such as Maho Bay, let them get their feet wet, and herd them back into the taxi for the rest of their tour.
Thomas also wrote that island tour fees are set by the V.I. Taxi Commission, which already collects fees from the taxi drivers. "To pay a fee to the Park Service as well is tantamount to double jeopardy, which is illegal," he wrote to King.
King said the payment of fees is not negotiable, and he will not go any lower than the $75 and $250 figures. However, he said, he still is willing to negotiate a free ride for taxi drivers taking people from point A to point B who want to make brief stops at one or two overlooks in the park. The superintendent and Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd both agreed at an Oct. 25 meeting that ownership of the roads will be settled in court.

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Nov. 26, 2001 - The taxi drivers won't pay for permits to take tours through the V.I. National Park, St. John Taxi Services representative Lorelei Monsanto said Monday. "If we have to boycott we will," she said.
Park Supt. John King responded that the park will turn the matter over to its legal department.
Come Jan. 1, anyone conducting a tour within the park without a permit will get a ticket, King said. "This is much ado about nothing. The fee is modest," he added.
Under its new Commercial Use Plan adopted last summer, the park is requiring tour operators, taxi associations and taxi drivers who take passengers on independent tours through the park to pay an annual fee. The park initially set the fees at $300 for independent drivers and $750 for associations and companies. After several meetings with industry members, King lowed the fees to $75 for independent drivers and $250 for associations and companies. There are no fees for drivers simply transporting passengers from point A to point B within the park.
All other commercial tour operators within the park, including those offering daysails, hiking trips and kayak excursions, pay annual fees ranging from $300 to $750.
"You've got to pay if you want to play," said Pam Heath, who with her husband, Brian, takes visitors on daysails in park waters aboard their sailboat, Fantasy. She said they pay $300 a year and have done so every year since they bought the boat in 1994.
Heath said the activities within the park have grown to such a point that the park management needs to have oversight over them all, including land tours.
After King and the taxi industry clashed at two public hearings and one private meeting in October and November, the fee issue remained at a stalemate. The St. John Taxi Services leadership agreed to come up with their best offer by Monday. The association's president, Randolph Thomas, wrote to King in a letter dated Nov. 25 that the matter rests with the roads.
The taxi association claims that the V.I. government owns the roads through the V.I. National Park. Therefore, the drivers say, the park has no right to force them to pay to use the roads.
However, King retorted: "This is not about who owns the roads through the park." He noted that national parks across the country have state and county roads running through them, and tour operators in those locations pay fees. He also has said that tour operators in all 385 of the other national parks pay fees.
Thomas wrote to King that tours do not include stops at any park facilities such as bathrooms or beaches. However, taxi drivers often discharge passengers at beaches such as Maho Bay, let them get their feet wet, and herd them back into the taxi for the rest of their tour.
Thomas also wrote that island tour fees are set by the V.I. Taxi Commission, which already collects fees from the taxi drivers. "To pay a fee to the Park Service as well is tantamount to double jeopardy, which is illegal," he wrote to King.
King said the payment of fees is not negotiable, and he will not go any lower than the $75 and $250 figures. However, he said, he still is willing to negotiate a free ride for taxi drivers taking people from point A to point B who want to make brief stops at one or two overlooks in the park. The superintendent and Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd both agreed at an Oct. 25 meeting that ownership of the roads will be settled in court.