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HomeNewsArchivesTAXI ASSOCIATION SEEKS COURT INJUNCTION ON FEES

TAXI ASSOCIATION SEEKS COURT INJUNCTION ON FEES

Jan. 3, 2002 – The 60-member St. John Taxi Association filed suit in U.S. District Court on Wednesday asking the court to make the V.I. National Park stop trying to charge its drivers a fee to use the park facilities.
The action was taken "so the issue can be resolved," Lorelei Monsanto, association spokeswoman, said Thursday. The suit names U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, V.I. National Park Supt. John King and the National Park Service as defendants.
King said Thursday he was "not at all troubled" by the suit. "I'm glad they decided to take this course of action," he added, calling the action preferable to rumors he had heard of the taxi drivers planning to block roads on St. John. Monsanto had said on Dec. 27 that the association had "a surprise in store" regarding the fees.
The suit centers on the taxi association's assertion that the roads through the park are public property. The V.I. government and the National Park Service both claim ownership. The suit also asserts that Congress has prohibited the National Park Service from charging fees for using the park's roads and overlooks. It argues that the park's new Commercial Services Plan, in which tour operator permits and fees are spelled out, violates federal law and is unenforceable.
King has said the fees are for the use of park facilities, such as beaches, that are utilized on tours. At many national parks, he said, the local county owns the roads, but the tour operators nonetheless pay the fees.
The suit, which seeks a permanent injunction against any plan by the park to charge taxi drivers fees to use park facilities, is the latest salvo in the St. John Taxi Association's refusal to pay for a permit that would cover all of its members. The clash surfaced in October, when many drivers at a public meeting on permits said they would not pay to take tours through the park. While other taxi associations, tour operators and individual drivers have gotten permits, the St. John Taxi Association is refusing to do so.
Other operators of tours, such as those conduct hiking, kayaking and day sail excursions, have held permits for years. The park's congressionally mandated Commercial Services Plan, adopted last summer after a year and a half of forums seeking public input, requires that all tour operators have permits.
The fees took effect Jan. 1. The park initially set the fees at $300 for independent drivers and $750 for associations and companies. In an effort to bring taxi drivers into compliance, King lowered the fees to $75 for independent drivers and $250 for associations and companies. Taxi drivers taking people from point A to point B are exempt from the fees.
Taxi drivers operating in the park without a permit are getting a first warning, King said. After that, he said, they're being issued tickets, and any operator that accumulates three tickets must appear before a District Court judge.
King said he did not know how many warnings or tickets have been issued so far.

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Jan. 3, 2002 - The 60-member St. John Taxi Association filed suit in U.S. District Court on Wednesday asking the court to make the V.I. National Park stop trying to charge its drivers a fee to use the park facilities.
The action was taken "so the issue can be resolved," Lorelei Monsanto, association spokeswoman, said Thursday. The suit names U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, V.I. National Park Supt. John King and the National Park Service as defendants.
King said Thursday he was "not at all troubled" by the suit. "I'm glad they decided to take this course of action," he added, calling the action preferable to rumors he had heard of the taxi drivers planning to block roads on St. John. Monsanto had said on Dec. 27 that the association had "a surprise in store" regarding the fees.
The suit centers on the taxi association's assertion that the roads through the park are public property. The V.I. government and the National Park Service both claim ownership. The suit also asserts that Congress has prohibited the National Park Service from charging fees for using the park's roads and overlooks. It argues that the park's new Commercial Services Plan, in which tour operator permits and fees are spelled out, violates federal law and is unenforceable.
King has said the fees are for the use of park facilities, such as beaches, that are utilized on tours. At many national parks, he said, the local county owns the roads, but the tour operators nonetheless pay the fees.
The suit, which seeks a permanent injunction against any plan by the park to charge taxi drivers fees to use park facilities, is the latest salvo in the St. John Taxi Association's refusal to pay for a permit that would cover all of its members. The clash surfaced in October, when many drivers at a public meeting on permits said they would not pay to take tours through the park. While other taxi associations, tour operators and individual drivers have gotten permits, the St. John Taxi Association is refusing to do so.
Other operators of tours, such as those conduct hiking, kayaking and day sail excursions, have held permits for years. The park's congressionally mandated Commercial Services Plan, adopted last summer after a year and a half of forums seeking public input, requires that all tour operators have permits.
The fees took effect Jan. 1. The park initially set the fees at $300 for independent drivers and $750 for associations and companies. In an effort to bring taxi drivers into compliance, King lowered the fees to $75 for independent drivers and $250 for associations and companies. Taxi drivers taking people from point A to point B are exempt from the fees.
Taxi drivers operating in the park without a permit are getting a first warning, King said. After that, he said, they're being issued tickets, and any operator that accumulates three tickets must appear before a District Court judge.
King said he did not know how many warnings or tickets have been issued so far.