City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley put forward a special meeting last Tuesday to discuss the franchise agreement with the Conch Tour Train, Old Town Trolley, CityView Trolley and the Duck Tour Seafari franchise with the city. Ginny Stones of HTA was the first to speak about the agreement and stressed the benefits the company brings to the city.
“HTA has been operating the train since 1958 and the trolley since 1976. As a partner with the city we have paid $432,000 in franchise license fees. We want to continue our good partnership with Key West,” Stones said.
The tour franchises are not going anywhere but there are a few issues the city commissioners feel need to be addressed when the contracts are renewed Feb. 10. Commissioner Mark Rossi would like to see the franchisees use alternative fuel such as propane to cut down carbon emissions and said he had constituents in his district complain about the noise.
“With every tour you go on in any big city, the first thing they do is hand out a pair of headphones. There is no reason I need to hear who lived where a dozen times a day,” said Rossi.
Commissioner Jimmy Weekley has concerns about the historical narrative.
“The drivers should be required to take a test from the city so the history is consistent and everything is factual,” Weekley said. “We need to make sure these drivers are not just making up stories.”
Weekley also said the trolleys and trains should be at 50 percent capacity before going on a tour but Mayor Craig Cates said that would be hard to enforce.
“These franchisees pay a lot of money to the city and the burden is all on them. The concern of having more people on the trolley is a business decision. That would be hard to enforce or monitor.”
Also, City Manager Jim Scholl said that the ramp at the city marina and at the end of Simonton Street are not ideal for Duck Tour vehicles.
The commission is putting together a list of improvements to give to the franchisees and also want community input. Residents of Key West are urged to contact the city commissioner for thier district via email. For a list of addresses, please log on to the city website, keywestcity.com.