The V.I. Port Authority announced Tuesday that it was turning over the management of the Cruz Bay ferry dock taxi operation over to the Property and Procurement Department, Property. Acting Procurement Commissioner Randolph Bennett said there would be no immediate changes.
“It will be business as usual. We don’t want to disrupt the normal way of business,” Bennett.
While the Port Authority continues to operate the dock, the parking spaces along the waterfront are on land owned by the government. Starting immediately, the parking will be managed by Property and Procurement. The Port Authority managed the parking spaces since December 2013 after the St. John Taxi Association was evicted.
Levron Sarauw, who heads the V.I. Taxi Association, was unaware of the change in management but said the situation with the taxi drivers at the Cruz Bay dock was beginning to get under control. The ferry dock operation has operated at various levels of confusion – some call it chaos – for years.
Sarauw said the first steps to further improving the situation would be to get the taxi drivers organized, followed by better policing.
When asked what he thought about a dispatching system, he said it could work if five or six taxi drivers were stationed at the dock, with additional drivers to be called as needed from a feeding line located away from the dock.
When the Port Authority took over taxi management of the parking spaces Director Carlton Dowe laid out a stringent plan that had everyone, including vacation villa managers picking up guests, paying to pick up people at the dock. The effort with the vacation villa managers quickly fell by the wayside, but the taxi drivers were required to pay $10 a day to use the facility.
Windspree Vacation Homes owner Karen Baranowski said taxi drivers continue to occupy most of the parking spots along the waterfront, leaving no place for villa managers and residents picking up people to park.
“The whole waterfront should be open to everyone,” she said.
Another vacation villa manager, Kathy McLaughlin at Island Getaways, agreed that it was unfair that the taxi drivers get to occupy most of the spaces. She said that some of them spend the day in the waterfront parking space instead of vacating the space so someone else can use it.
McLaughlin said the people who pick up vacationers at the dock, called greeters, often line their cars up in front of the parked taxis because there is nowhere for them to park. However, most of them alert the taxi drivers as to who owns the car, and when the taxi driver needs to get his vehicle out, he alerts the villa greeter.
She said a helpful police officer assigned to the dock makes the situation a little smoother. And since it’s the slower summer season, there is less traffic.
However, McLaughlin said she worries that one the winter season begins to ramp up in November, Property and Procurement will suddenly decide to make changes, rather than doing them in the slow summer when they’ll be easier to implement.
Dowe said in the Tuesday press release that the Port Authority never signed any official lease or deed for the property. Additionally, it no longer has any interest in managing the concession without a lease.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original posting to include comments from Acting Procurement Commissioner Randolph Bennett.