March 22, 2006 – Residents needing to park at Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas should start traveling with a few extra dollars in their pockets. Starting July 1, parking fees will double.
V.I. Port Authority board members, who approved the increase at a board meeting Wednesday, said the new fee schedule was "long overdue" and would bring in some much needed revenues for VIPA.
Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards, the only board member opposed to the idea, said that new rates should be introduced gradually, so residents could expect them on a year-to-year basis. "If we told the community that there will be certain increase every year or so, then they would be better prepared," she said. "Otherwise, they're going to be hit with these new fees all at once, and that will raise some concerns."
Richards' proposal did not win any support, however, as board members claimed that there hasn't been an increase in parking fees since 1990.
"I don't see anything here that's completely outrageous," board member Leslie Milliner said after the proposed rates were introduced.
Under the new fee schedule, residents will now pay:
–$2 for one to two hours of parking.
–$6 for three to four hours of parking.
–$8 for more than four hours of parking.
–$10 for more than five hours of parking. And
–$10 for a lost parking ticket.
VIPA tenants, employees, and delivery companies parking at the airport will also see an increase. Airport-based employees will now pay $50 a month for parking (up from $25 a month), while VIPA employees and tenants will pay $2 a day (up from $1 a day). Parking for delivery companies, including limousine services, will jump from $45 per month to $150 per month.
Long-term parking has also increased from $75 to $150 per vehicle per month.
On the topic of parking, board members also weighed the benefits of introducing an automated ticket processing system for the airport to assist ticket collectors during the peak arrival times. No decision was made on the matter, however.
VIPA Executive Director Darlan Brin told board members he had issued a task order to Burns and McDonnell Inc. – an international engineering, architecture and consulting firm contracted with the authority – for the creation of conceptual design plans for a new parking lot for the airport, along with improvements to the arrival and baggage claim areas.
"The restrooms at Cyril E. King also need to be looked at," Brin said. "And there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to have passengers go straight from the plane to the baggage area without having to walk halfway around the airport."
Funding for the design plans – some $300,000 – comes from the Passenger Facilities Charge, a fee imposed by VIPA on passengers deplaning at Cyril E. King.
Brin also said Federal Aviation Association funds would be used to replace the airport's baggage belts from a one-motor system to a two-motor system. Brin said that while he has received approval from the FAA to use the funds, he still has to "put some specs together" before the project could be put out for bid.
Board members also approved an amendment to a lease between the authority and Atlantic Aircraft Inc., along with a lease agreement between VIPA and First Bank Virgin Islands for space at the airport used for operating an automatic teller machine. Board members further approved a request from the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority that involves using VIPA land to run water lines from Red Hook to St. John.
A fee waiver for Boston Harbor Cruises was also approved during Wednesday's meeting. Brin explained that the territory's former fast-ferry provider agreed to shuttle residents between St. Thomas and St. Croix during this year's Agricultural Fair and was entitled to a 50 percent waiver in the ridership fees imposed by VIPA.
"The Island Lynx was supposed to have been providing services for us during that time, but since they had already submitted two ferry schedules to me and didn't show up when they were supposed to, I didn't want to take the chance that they wouldn't be there for us during the Ag Fair," Brin said.
Wrapping up the meeting, board members also discussed the status of various capital improvement projects currently ongoing in the territory – including the Enighed Pond development, which Brin said is scheduled to open on April 10, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 21.
All board members except for Public Works Commissioner George Phillips were present at Wednesday's meeting.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.