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PETITE PUMP ROOM GETS SATISFACTION FROM VIPA

Nov. 28, 2001 – Three Port Authority tenants who operate within steps of one another on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront presented three different scenarios at Wednesday's monthly VIPA board meeting as they brought forward financial concerns.
Kevin Matthews, director of operations for Boston Harbor Cruises, known locally as Virgin Islands Fast Ferry, said he wants to explore the market for establishing service between St. Thomas and Fajardo, Puerto Rico. He said the company is considering bringing down the 250-passenger Athena, which he described as a "mini-Salacia" with the same ride-control function as the larger vessel now running between St. Thomas and St. Croix, for the second route.
Saying BHC might start the new service this season or next, Matthews asked the VIPA board for the same deal BHC has for the V.I. route — no port fees the first year, $1.50 the second year and $3 the third year. He didn't get a lot of encouragement,
"We're not sure it's feasible, but our Virgin Islands passengers have asked if we will be going to Puerto Rico," Matthews said.
That statement prompted a response from board member Leslie Milliner. "If it's for Puerto Ricans to come here for free-port shopping, that's fine," Milliner said, "but if it's the other way, then no. We don't want Virgin Islanders doing their shopping over there." Attorney General Iver Stridiron also said he would have "serious reservations" about the proposed route.
Matthews said there is a strong Puerto Rican market. He said his company has a relationship with Fajardo's El Conquistador Hotel, whose guests would be potential customers for one-day shopping, and he said feedback from Puerto Rico travel agents has been positive.
The 600-passenger Salacia initiated winter season service Friday between St. Thomas and St. Croix after a trial run in April. Matthews said the Salacia has been carrying an average of 50 passengers per trip so far, which "we couldn't afford to do for long." But, he added, "we expect business to pick up. Right now, we are interested in customer satisfaction." And this, he said, has been excellent.
Maurice Kurg, president of Seaborne Airlines, told the board his company is in "dire straits" financially. He said the airline got through the slow summer season reasonably well, but "those profits were more than doubly wiped out after Sept 11."
Because Seaborne is on shaky financial footing, Kurg said, it needs government relief. He said the company has been hit with a $19,000 back rent demand because VIPA had lost track of a scheduled rent increase. He asked to have the charge waived, or at least to work out a time-payment plan, and he asked for a relief period of 90 to 180 days. Citing the breaks VIPA gave BHC, Kurg told the board he was happy to find they were "in a generous mood."
Stridiron said Seaborne is a good corporate citizen and should be given consideration, given that "in 1998 or 1999, we missed the fact there was a rent increase." Gordon Finch, VIPA executive director, said the rent system has been corrected.
Kurg said Seaborne applied for federal government airline tax breaks and received $13,000; he is looking into other federal grants and programs. He said the company's vendors have been "better than expected," with short-term loans, discounts and aircraft leases, but the company still needs local government help.
Stridiron brought up the disreputable appearance of the Watergut parking facility where the seaplane passengers arrive and depart on St. Croix. "The place looks awful," he said. "There's no fence, the gut runs over, the parking lot is terrible. We haul out the red carpet for BHC — why can't we help Seaborne?"
There was debate as to whether the parking lot is the responsibility of VIPA or the Public Works Department. One board member suggested it may fall to the Planning and Natural Resources Department. Milliner said, "It is ours. It belongs to the Virgin Islands."
Attorney Derek Hodge, representing Michael Watson, manager of the Petite Pump Room, situated on the second floor of the Edward Wilmoth Blyden Terminal that serves ferries to and from the British Virgin Islands, asked where the parking meters were that Watson had been promised months ago. Hodge said Watson had never gotten a straight answer about the meters, intended for the ferry terminal parking lot. "He was even told they were in storage, but nobody knew where. I don't think they're here," Hodge said.
The limited parking at the terminal has always presented problems, Hodge said, "and now with charging at the GERS lot across the street, it's going to get worse."
Also, Hodge told the board, VIPA owes Watson a $27,000 refund on excess rent. He also asked for a rent reduction for the business, which has been a VIPA tenant for more than 20 years.
The only actions the board took Wednesday were in response to Watson's points. It granted the rent reduction he sought and agreed to apply the $27,000 as a rent credit. It also said VIPA would install 40 parking meters, with seven of them designated exclusively for Petite Pump Room customers. Where all 40 meters would go was not made clear.
Watson said later that parking for his customers has become "almost impossible." He said people leave cars in the lot all day while they take the ferry to Tortola, and the new St. Croix fast ferry service has only made things worse.
It's no longer legal to park along the side of the building, Watson said. "The other day I noticed I hadn't seen one of my regular customers in a few days," he said, "so I called him. He told me he'd gotten a $125 ticket for parking along the wall, so he couldn't afford to come here any more."
The ticket was because the car had been parked in a "security zone" created after Sept. 11, Watson said. He paid for his customer's ticket, and brought it to the meeting to illustrate his point.
Board action on the Seaborne Airlines and BHC requests is pending.

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Nov. 28, 2001 – Three Port Authority tenants who operate within steps of one another on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront presented three different scenarios at Wednesday's monthly VIPA board meeting as they brought forward financial concerns.
Kevin Matthews, director of operations for Boston Harbor Cruises, known locally as Virgin Islands Fast Ferry, said he wants to explore the market for establishing service between St. Thomas and Fajardo, Puerto Rico. He said the company is considering bringing down the 250-passenger Athena, which he described as a "mini-Salacia" with the same ride-control function as the larger vessel now running between St. Thomas and St. Croix, for the second route.
Saying BHC might start the new service this season or next, Matthews asked the VIPA board for the same deal BHC has for the V.I. route -- no port fees the first year, $1.50 the second year and $3 the third year. He didn't get a lot of encouragement,
"We're not sure it's feasible, but our Virgin Islands passengers have asked if we will be going to Puerto Rico," Matthews said.
That statement prompted a response from board member Leslie Milliner. "If it's for Puerto Ricans to come here for free-port shopping, that's fine," Milliner said, "but if it's the other way, then no. We don't want Virgin Islanders doing their shopping over there." Attorney General Iver Stridiron also said he would have "serious reservations" about the proposed route.
Matthews said there is a strong Puerto Rican market. He said his company has a relationship with Fajardo's El Conquistador Hotel, whose guests would be potential customers for one-day shopping, and he said feedback from Puerto Rico travel agents has been positive.
The 600-passenger Salacia initiated winter season service Friday between St. Thomas and St. Croix after a trial run in April. Matthews said the Salacia has been carrying an average of 50 passengers per trip so far, which "we couldn't afford to do for long." But, he added, "we expect business to pick up. Right now, we are interested in customer satisfaction." And this, he said, has been excellent.
Maurice Kurg, president of Seaborne Airlines, told the board his company is in "dire straits" financially. He said the airline got through the slow summer season reasonably well, but "those profits were more than doubly wiped out after Sept 11."
Because Seaborne is on shaky financial footing, Kurg said, it needs government relief. He said the company has been hit with a $19,000 back rent demand because VIPA had lost track of a scheduled rent increase. He asked to have the charge waived, or at least to work out a time-payment plan, and he asked for a relief period of 90 to 180 days. Citing the breaks VIPA gave BHC, Kurg told the board he was happy to find they were "in a generous mood."
Stridiron said Seaborne is a good corporate citizen and should be given consideration, given that "in 1998 or 1999, we missed the fact there was a rent increase." Gordon Finch, VIPA executive director, said the rent system has been corrected.
Kurg said Seaborne applied for federal government airline tax breaks and received $13,000; he is looking into other federal grants and programs. He said the company's vendors have been "better than expected," with short-term loans, discounts and aircraft leases, but the company still needs local government help.
Stridiron brought up the disreputable appearance of the Watergut parking facility where the seaplane passengers arrive and depart on St. Croix. "The place looks awful," he said. "There's no fence, the gut runs over, the parking lot is terrible. We haul out the red carpet for BHC -- why can't we help Seaborne?"
There was debate as to whether the parking lot is the responsibility of VIPA or the Public Works Department. One board member suggested it may fall to the Planning and Natural Resources Department. Milliner said, "It is ours. It belongs to the Virgin Islands."
Attorney Derek Hodge, representing Michael Watson, manager of the Petite Pump Room, situated on the second floor of the Edward Wilmoth Blyden Terminal that serves ferries to and from the British Virgin Islands, asked where the parking meters were that Watson had been promised months ago. Hodge said Watson had never gotten a straight answer about the meters, intended for the ferry terminal parking lot. "He was even told they were in storage, but nobody knew where. I don't think they're here," Hodge said.
The limited parking at the terminal has always presented problems, Hodge said, "and now with charging at the GERS lot across the street, it's going to get worse."
Also, Hodge told the board, VIPA owes Watson a $27,000 refund on excess rent. He also asked for a rent reduction for the business, which has been a VIPA tenant for more than 20 years.
The only actions the board took Wednesday were in response to Watson's points. It granted the rent reduction he sought and agreed to apply the $27,000 as a rent credit. It also said VIPA would install 40 parking meters, with seven of them designated exclusively for Petite Pump Room customers. Where all 40 meters would go was not made clear.
Watson said later that parking for his customers has become "almost impossible." He said people leave cars in the lot all day while they take the ferry to Tortola, and the new St. Croix fast ferry service has only made things worse.
It's no longer legal to park along the side of the building, Watson said. "The other day I noticed I hadn't seen one of my regular customers in a few days," he said, "so I called him. He told me he'd gotten a $125 ticket for parking along the wall, so he couldn't afford to come here any more."
The ticket was because the car had been parked in a "security zone" created after Sept. 11, Watson said. He paid for his customer's ticket, and brought it to the meeting to illustrate his point.
Board action on the Seaborne Airlines and BHC requests is pending.