Dec. 30, 2003 – The Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department is waiving for the time being a scheduled fee increase that would more than triple costs for the inspection every other year of "safari" taxis, Sen. Roosevelt David said in a release issued on Tuesday.
The inspection fee, which has been $15 for a decade and a half, was recently raised to $50. However, according to David's release, Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik said that after having issued a release concerning the fee increases, "items were brought to the table that had previously been left out."
"The elements of the equation need to be redefined to best serve all those involved," David quoted Rutnik as saying. "When this happens, we will have a comprehensive biannual inspection process, and it will be sustained in order to provide money for the Taxi Commission Revolving Fund."
David said that Winston Parker, president of the V.I. Taxi Association on St. Thomas, "called me with concerns that such an increase is unpalatable and should not be approved unless further discussions resume. The fact that there has not been an increase in 15 years does not mean that a fee can be increased in order to adhere to the economics of the times. Three hundred percent is quite substantial."
Rutnik said, according to David's release, that after talking with David, "we decided to hold off on the fee increase and schedule a series of meetings with the leaders of the Taxi Commission."
According to Rutnik, his department's inspections address "the professionalism" of taxi vehicles, while Motor Vehicle Bureau inspectors check out their roadworthiness. "By that I mean that the [DLCA] inspectors check to see if the windows roll up, the seats are in adequate condition, etc., and as well that is it safe to ride on the vehicle," he said.
David said in his release that the government is guilty of assessing taxi owners "at levels that are not consistent with wage earnings and the size of the vehicles." But he said Rutnik had told him that Licensing and Consumer Affairs is considering a graduated fee schedule based on the number of passengers a vehicle can carry. David commended Rutnik in this regard for "the ability to reassess and rethink strategy" in the public interest.
Saying it is his intent "to uphold consumer confidence and values," David said he will attend a scheduled mid-January meeting of the department and the Taxi Commission to discuss the inspection rate increase.
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