NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday night approved a rate increase for taxi service within the city limits for the first time since 2007.
The eight councilors present were unanimous in passing the ordinance change; Councilor Jennifer Breen was absent.
The change increases the charges within the city's two taxi zones from $4 to $6 for Zone 1 and from $5 to $7 for Zone 2. The rate was requested by Tunnel City Taxi owner Guy Cariddi, who appeared before the Public Safety Committee last Monday.
Cariddi currently operates the only full-time taxi service in the city after acquiring some assets of Vets Taxi when it closed a few months back.
A couple councilors asked why the city would be setting rates to begin with. President Lisa Blackmer said it was a traditional function of local governments, the only difference being which body oversaw the process.
"I would say we don't want to raise it unless we're asked," said Councilor Keith Bona, chairman of the Public Safety Committee.
Cariddi, who was in the audience on Tuesday night, had told the Public Safety Committee he was losing money. He estimated it cost about $1,100 a day or more to operate (including gas, maintenance, insurance and salaries) and was coming up short $200 to $250.
"We would still be less than Pittsfield but we'd be competitive," he told the committee about the $2 rate hike. "If you want to stay with the zone that minimum needs to be $6. We aren't by any means trying to get rich off this."
His other business, automobile repair, helps defray some of costs, he said, but the pricing would seriously impede another taxi startup.
"Maybe this will open it up," Bona told the council. "I can't think of other businesses we tell what to charge. I like that this is a set rate but not that you tell them what to do."
Other councilors also expressed some concern over having the power over rates but agreed an increase appeared necessary.
"The modest increase is warranted," said Councilor Wayne Wilkinson. "Give him a modest increase to make sure we have a taxi service in town."
Councilor Kate Merrigan, also a member of the Public Safety Committee, had wanted to speak with residents about the hike. She had been able to talk with a few people who used the taxi service who were "generally neutral" on the increase, believing it was expected and not excessively high.
Bona said the use of odometers over the city's 70-year-old taxi zones had been discussed but putting meters in the taxis would cost more than a $1,000 each. Merrigan said the people she had spoken with preferred the zone charges because they were standard and easier to budget.
Tunnel City also charges 25 cents extra for a stop and $40 to drive to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield. The taxi will wait a half-hour for $22; Cariddi said it may be cheaper to call the taxi back if it's over a half-hour or take Rainbow Taxi from Pittsfield.
The service takes about 143 calls a day and is open to midnight; Cariddi's livery, a scheduled service that does not fall under the council's purview, does about 200 calls a day, including for BerkshireRides. A van health transportation service does about 27 rides a day.
"Somebody using a taxi every day should be using BerkshireRides because it only cost $2 and we tell them that," Cariddi had said.
The ordinance was passed to a second reading and to be published.
In other business:
• Michael Leary and Paul Hopkins were reappointed to the Planning Board, both to terms to expire Feb. 1, 2019. "I've worked with both for a very, very long time," said Wilkinson, a former planner. "Both have done an exceptional job over the years and the public should know what they have done."
• Elizabeth DiLego was reappointed to the Board of Registrars for a term to expire April 1, 2017.
• A secondhand license was approved for Ernest Perry for Odds & Ends located at 510 State Road.
• Mayor Richard Alcombright read a proclamation declaring May 5-11 as Children's Mental Health Week in the city.
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