St. John agents also complained of day-trippers touring their island in rental vehicles from St. Thomas, and agents on both islands warned of the dire consequences of a proposal to drop the provision for customers to leave a credit card as security.
Police Commissioner Franz Christian got the feedback as he conducted public hearings on both islands on vehicle rental quotas. The hearings are supposed to be an annual check on the numbers of rental vehicles offered by each agency, although it has been several years since the last one was held.
The third and final hearing is set for 7 p.m. Friday on St. Croix in the Legislature Building conference room in Frederiksted.
"You have to request the [number] of cars you need, and then you have to keep them up through licensing," St. Thomas Hertz Rent-A-Car manager Valerie Aubain said.
Back in 1994, St. John rental company owners tried to halt the barging of vehicles rented on St. Thomas over to St. John. At Tuesday's hearing on St. John, Charlie Marsh of C&C Rental in Cruz Bay told Christian that competition for customers has now expanded to include competition for parking space.
"The cars from St. Thomas are allowed to come here now, but there is no parking for them," he said.
The number of car and jeep rental businesses in Cruz Bay rose sharply around 1994, increasing competition on island. But, because of the small size of each agency, many St. John operators have low quotas for their vehicle inventories.
Agents on both islands described in detail their difficulties with unreported parking tickets.
Khalilah Samuel, who attended the St. John hearing for O'Connor Car Rental, said customers cited for traffic violations routinely return their vehicles without telling anyone about their tickets. "The cars are ticketed, but not the people," she said. "If it's a moving violation, the car company is responsible."
Agents on both islands said the problem is compounded by new Motor Vehicles Bureau rules which allow for penalty charges to be tacked on for tickets not paid in a timely manner. "I just paid $100 on a car that was sold," Samuel said. "There was a moving violation for a seat belt. We had to pay for it."
According to both Samuel and Aubain, Christian said he and his officers would try to address the problem. One officer placed part of the blame on the Territorial Court, saying it doesn't send in tickets on time, Aubain said. "Sometimes officers do not turn their tickets in on time," she added. "Sometimes it's a year until we find out there's a parking ticket."
"The commissioner was very responsive, but he said his hands are tied," Aubain said.
At the Wednesday hearing on St. Thomas, Christian said tourists don't always know where they can and cannot park, because there aren't enough signs posted in restricted areas. He said the problem was one that could best be addressed by Motor Vehicles.
Rental business operators attending the hearings — about 25 on St. John and eight on St. Thomas — also challenged a government proposal to end the credit card security policy. Marsh said the alternative now permitted — a $150 cash deposit — "can't work" because the insurance deductible per car is $750. He said he would prefer to see a cash deposit sufficient to cover the rental company in case the car is damaged or destroyed while in the customer's hands.
Bruce Thomas of Dependable Car Rental on St. Thomas said the subject of cash deposits also came up at a recent meeting of rental agents on St. Croix.