After waiting more than two years for turnstiles for the ferry facility at Red Hook, the V.I. Port Authority governing board gave the go-ahead Wednesday for VIPA attorney Henry Carr to aggressively pursue Perey Turnstiles to deliver or return what they have been paid. Carr said he believed the sum involved was roughly $74,000.
"I was cautiously optimistic and they appeared to be on the way," Carr told the board during its regular monthly meeting. "But since then, the company has reverted back to how it was before, with no response to calls or letters," Carr said. "It looks like we are not going to receive our turnstiles so we should proceed to attempt to recover our money."
Asked afterward if VIPA will file suit to collect against Perey Turnstile, Carr said a lawsuit may be likely, but was not certain.
"We want the turnstiles or the money returned," he said. "Unless we get some positive response in very short order we will be filing suit."
The turnstiles were contracted back in 2009, both to more accurately track passengers taking the Red Hook ferry and to collect a new 50 cent per passenger fee. The fee is on top of the regular transportation fare of $10, which generated some opposition from the anti-tax V.I. Unity Coalition when VIPA first approved it.
VIPA subsequently voted to offer a 50-percent discount – which amounts to 25 cents – to students, seniors 62 and older, and certain passengers traveling for medical reason. So some passengers pay $10 for a ticket, then 50 cents at the turnstile, while others would pay 25 cents at the turnstile – if they had been delivered.
The board also voted to sell some of its outstanding debt, specifically interest charges on debt to a private collection agency. The amount of revenue this would generate was not clear, but would be some sum, while the debt might otherwise have to be written off as a loss.
Interest and fees on past-due debt are more problematic to collect because they are often disputed by debtors, some of whom have refused to pay, said board member Gordon Finch.
Attorney General Vincent Frazer, a VIPA board member, asked if it would be any easier to sell this old bad debt than to try to collect it.
"Would that subject us to the same problems, to sell it to somebody else to try to collect?" Frazer asked.
"Are individuals going to have the same reaction, saying they never had notice or that it is too old?"
Acting VIPA Executive Director Don Mills said "purchasers will know what the limitations are," which would affect what price the debt fetched from collectors.
In other matters, the board voted to amend a February order allowing St. Croix Renaissance to use its own pilots to navigate through the Krause Lagoon Channel to its private shipping port, instead of having to rely upon VIPA pilots at its private shipping port.
Finch said that since then, “the St. Croix marine manager has been attempting to assess piloting fees on vessels that we have given Renaissance the right to pilot to access their dock.”
The board passed a resolution clarifying that Renaissance may hire either VIPA pilots or private pilots, and would only pay VIPA piloting fees if it actually used VIPA pilots.
All votes were unanimous. Present were Finch, Frazer, Chairman Robert O’Connor, Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty and Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls. Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan and Yvonne Thraen were absent.