The National Park Service will raise the rent nearly 20 fold on an Arlington warehouse it rents out for Tourmobile but storage, ending what Rep. John E. Dingell (D-Mich.) as sailed as a "sweetheart" deal benefitting as California-based conglomerate.
Dingell, chairman of a House Small Business subcommittee, disclosed yesterday that Landmark services, Inc., will be called upon to pay $23,500 a year for use of the warehouse near National Airport that it has been renting since 1969 for $1,250.
Word of the rent rise came last week from Gary E. Everhardt, director of the park service, Dingell said.
Landmark is a subsidiary of Music Corp. of America (MCA), a conglomerate that has concessions in various national parks and has produced such motion pictures as "Jaws" and "The Sting."
The Landmark contract with the park service, a part of the Interior Department has created controversy since 1975, when the General Accounting Office recommended that the Park Service end its subsidized rental to Landmark of the 20,000-square-foot building.
Park service officials said at the time that the low-cost rental was intended to keep prices low for tourists using the Tourmobile service - something Dingell said yesterday has not happened.
The Tourmobiles, two-piece buses that swing in the middle as they round turns, haul tourists along the Mall and to and from the National Visitor Center and Arlington Cemetery. The all-day adult fare is currently $4.
Thomas Mack, vice president and general manager of Landmark, said he had not been notified of the rental increase, and refused to comment yesterday. He would not speculate whether the higher rent might trigger a fare increase.
The Interior Department reported last year that higher rental fees might cause a fare increase of "a few cents."
Dingell's announement said the park service acted only after being proded by congressional committee reports last March and during hearings in December. "The park service dragged its feet until now, the last year of this sweetheart contract," Dingell said, noting that the arrangement will terminate Dec. 31, unless extended.
In a letter dated Feb. 14, Everhardt told Dingell that the park service completed an appraisal of the warehouse, and decided to raise the rent, backdated to Jan. 1.
Landmark had not been notified, he explained, because the park service plans to make additional charges for other parts of the company's concessions.
The warehouse is located on the west side of the George Washington Memorial Parkway just south of Virginia Rte. 233, the elevated road over the railroad yards connecting National Airport with the Crystal City area of Arlington. The land on which the warehouse is located is leased by the park service from the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad.
Dingell said the park service has agreed to consider moving the bus storage facility to another location.