By Mauri Elbel
For a minimum of $20,000, local veterans will have the opportunity to submit bids to secure a place within the island’s lucrative taxi and tour operating business.
“This is a great opportunity to show our veterans that we care for them,” said Commissioner Andrew Rutnik, Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs. “And we now have new veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan who will have an opportunity to come home and exclusively be able to get into the taxi cab business. And we are glad we are able to accommodate them and award them for their sacrifices.”
Each December, the Taxi Division holds its annual taxi medallion auction, opening the bid process for two medallions on each of the three main islands in the territory.
Auction Open To Veterans Only
The medallion auction, open only to Virgin Islands Veterans of the Armed Services, will take place throughout the week of December 18. Auctions will be at 10 a.m. on each island — on St. John, the two medallions will be auctioned to approved buyers at the Boulon Center in Cruz Bay on Dec. 20 and at the DCLA offices on St. Thomas on Dec. 19 and Dec. 18 on St. Croix.
Each island has minimum acceptable bids, and eligible applicants on St. Thomas and St. John have a minimum bid amount of $20,000 while St. Croix’ s minimum bid is $8,000.
“The benefit of having a taxi medallion is that it has real value,” said Rutnik. “St. John medallions that have been auctioned off for the last five years have increased steadily in value by about $10,000 to $15,000.”
The medallions, owned by the winning bidders, are accompanied by two license plates owned by the DCLA — a combination which allows a person to operate taxi and tour businesses exclusively on the island they are issued.
Currently 1,200 taxi medallions are owned on St. Thomas, 600 on St. Croix and 400 on St. John.
Due to a moratorium which went into effect in the mid-1990s, only two medallions are available for auction annually on each island.
The moratorium prevented the Taxi Commission from issuing medallions, but DLCA recognized a V.I. law giving the commission authority to auction two medallions per year on each island to V.I. veterans of military service, according to Rutnik.
In 2000, the Taxi Commission was abolished and the DCLA’s Taxi Division was established to take over all of the commission’s previous responsibilities and duties.
10 Percent Down Payment
A 10 percent non-refundable down payment for the bid amount is due from the winning bidders by 3 p.m. the day following the auction.
Each year, five or six people bid for the medallions on St. John, six or seven people bid on St. Thomas and two or three bid on St. Croix, according to Rutnik.
“Last year on St. John, both medallions were sold for the low-$30,000 dollar range,” said Rutnik. “And this year, we expect just about the same, maybe even a slight increase.”
Taxi medallions are considered as real property with a market value assigned to each medallion, and those who purchase these medallions will not be allowed to lease or transfer these medallions for at least three years, according to Rutnik.
“And a medallion appreciates in value — right now the market value for medallions on St. John is between $35,000 and $45,000,” said Rutnik.
Interested buyers will be able to pick up bid forms at the Taxicab Division’s office on St. Croix and St. Thomas during regular working hours for a fee of $10.
All applications must be taken to the office of the Veterans Affairs for verification of eligibility so be sure to take along their DD214 separation document. St. John bids must be turned in by 3 p.m. on Dec. 19, and bid boxes will not be reopened until the auction.