Keystone bus fees under fire |

Keystone bus fees under fire

Summit Daily/Reid Williams

KEYSTONE ” Keystone homeowners are asking Vail Resorts to return fees they paid the company over the years for bus service at Keystone Resort.

After the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) found in June that the ski company’s transportation operations fell outside the scope of its certificate, Gateway Condominium Association owners sent a letter to the resort requesting a full refund of money paid for villagewide bus services.

The PUC slapped the company with 60 violations for “charging for service they shouldn’t be charging for” and transporting people to places not listed in the certificate, according to the PUC’s Terry Bote.

The company paid a $12,000 fine for illegal operations the first two months of this year, but it does not plan to repay homeowners, according to a Sept. 2 letter to the Keystone Owners’ Association by resort chief Roger McCarthy.

“We provided the service in good faith for an agreed-upon cost and there is absolutely no showing of any harm to the association or any intentional misconduct by Keystone,” McCarthy’s letter states. “We strongly believe their claim solely is intended to force a nuisance settlement from Keystone.”

In 1995, the resort started charging property owners in the River Run neighborhood transportation fees of about $150 a year per bedroom per unit. Some owners were charged, while others were not.

The Keystone Citizens League (KCL) wrote an August letter to the PUC saying the system was discriminatory and pointed out that guests staying in River Run usually walk to the lifts, restaurants and shopping.

“They seldom need or use the bus services,” KCL’s letter states. “The charges … seem to have been imposed as a way to increase Keystone profits even though little or no useful services were provided for these charges.”

The situation angered some residents who are now complaining about a similar transportation fee to be instituted throughout Keystone this ski season.

Craig Suwinski, a homeowner on Last Chance Lane who did not pay bus fees before, said it doesn’t make sense the resort will begin charging him $150 a year per bedroom for bus service.

Suwinski lives alone in a four-bedroom home, so he would pay $600 annually under the new fee structure, which would apply to property owners within a three-mile radius of the intersection of Highway 6 and West Keystone Road.

“I skied 35 days last year,” Suwinski said. “If I used the bus every time, the new fee means I’ll be paying more than $17 per use. Everybody should pay for transportation ” I have no problem with that but let’s make it reasonable and based on usage.”

Since taking over resort operations a two years ago, McCarthy began looking at all operations to trim costs. In August, the company cut its transportation staff, shut down regular service and instituted a call-on-demand system.

The new per-bedroom fee is set to start Nov. 1, when regular 20-minute service will return to the village.

Suwinski applauds the cost-savings efforts but said the new fees are “taking it too far.” He might have supported the fee, but for the fact the company is making changes without talking to the public.

The PUC approved Keystone’s new fee structure in August but this month decided it may be “unjust and discriminatory” because it is imposed without regard to use of the service.

The proposed fee structure is to be reviewed by the PUC on Nov. 16.

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