Following the money from the carriage industry to the city

Following the money from the carriage industry to the city
Published: May. 10, 2017 at 6:39 PM EDT|Updated: May. 11, 2017 at 9:08 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The City of Charleston has overseen the animal carriage tour industry for more than 30 years.

But did you know the city makes money from the very industry it regulates?

Last year alone, there were more than 40,000 carriage tours in Charleston, far more than bus tours or walking tours in the city.

In fact, it's the largest carriage tour industry in the Southeast region.

To put it in perspective, Savannah gave more than 16,000 carriage tours last year as well.

The city's Department of Livability and Tourism is in charge of making sure carriage companies follow the rules.

Those rules have been in place since the 1980's.

"A large portion of the ordinance is for the care and welfare of the animal," said Daniel Riccio, the city's Department of Livability and Tourism director.

It also spells out how much each company must pay to the city to operate in the city.

Right now, that's five companies paying $17,500 each. There's also a medallion fee and a tour tax.

The tax is 50 cents for every adult on board each carriage. The medallion fee is three dollars a tour.

Carriages get a medallion at the start of every tour. A machine randomly assigns each carriage a "zone," or part of the city, to tour.

The medallion is hung at the back of the carriage and tells you, at a glance, where the tour is going.

The medallions are the city's way of keeping multiple carriages from crowding the same streets and the same time.

The medallion fees add up: $3 x 40,000 tours = $120,000.

What about the mess the animals leave behind? Somebody is paid to clean that up.

"The carriage companies pay a fee each month for the sanitation. The city collects that money, records it, and then writes the company a check for the services for that month. No revenue is collected or made by the city for overseeing that," Riccio said.

Last year there were 23 incidents involving the animal carriages – most of them involving vehicles being damaged.

But does the city make any money giving out tickets or citations?

"Any money generated from that goes directly to the state for court fees and to the municipal court for their fees. That's to maintain the court. It's just like any other criminal offense, any other ticket," Riccio added.

Last year there were two citations given. Both of which to the Old South Carriage Company for equipment problems. In one, I'm told a front wheel came loose after the bearing broke. In the second one, an eye piece was missing from a harness.

In all, the city made $321,625 from carriage tours in Charleston last year. Officials with the city said that's .16 percent of Charleston annual city budget
and goes into the general fund.

"That's typical across the board in any city. There's got to be cost associated with running your industry, running your business," Riccio said.

And while that business continues to grow – the city says it's their job to ensure the quality of life of the citizens and visitors alike to Charleston – while
also making sure the industry is doing the right thing.

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