Pittsfield Taxicab Commission Reconvenes to Address Taxi Ordinance

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The re-constituted Taxicab Commission met Wednesday for the first time in more than a decade.

The panel elected Senior Center Director James Clark as chair and Councilor at Large Karen Kalinowsky as vice chair and outlined its immediate priorities: to address a rate increase request from County Rainbow Taxi and take a look at the city's ordinance for taxis and other vehicles for hire.

The ordinance states that the commission regulates the operation of taxis in the city and annually on Dec. 1, it should recommend to the City Council and mayor changes in authorized fees and rates established by the ordinance.

The taxicab rate is capped at $2.50 and at 30 cents for each additional 1/8 of a mile thereafter in the ordinance.

Clerk Sabrina Gogan reported that there hasn't been an increase or request since 2005. The taxi company wanted to put in a request but had been past the deadline, so it was decided that the commission get back together and fix the ordinance to have a different timeline or make an exception to change it.

Clark asked City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta if they could extend the deadline to July 1 since the commission didn't exist and Pagnotta suggested updating the ordinance.

"I think the ordinance needs to be reviewed and revised," he said. "I mean, some of the language goes back decades."

Pagnotta added that it might make sense to build in some flexibility to the ordinance, citing the limited market for taxi service in the city.

"I think our first task should be to review the current charter information, our ordinance that we have on taxi cabs, start small start with the fare increases because that'll probably be the biggest but then also with that, in that same vein, we should look at the liabilities," Clark said, speculating that technology has advanced since the charter was written and insurance costs have probably gone up.

The commission also discussed getting a list of every entity that provides rides in the city when member Anuja Koirala raised questions about the variety of ride services that don't have a city taxicab license as Rainbow does.

Pagnotta pointed out that other providers are permitted to bring service into Pittsfield from other locations but cannot transport people within city bounds.

Commissioner Robert Malnati also pointed out that a person can have a livery license that allows people to make arrangements for rides for a fixed fee.

"I would say one of our first orders of business should be to determine as many as we can, who were the ride providers in Pittsfield, and I would say right off the bat, just anybody that gets a ride other than to a family member," Clark said, adding that after the ride providers are identified they can be sorted into silos that they fall under.

The commission will meet again on June 1 and begin its work on the city ordinance.

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DA Clears Trooper in Fatal Hancock Shooting

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

District Attorney Timothy Shugrue says the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner will not change his findings, which are based on the video and witnesses. With him are State Police Lts. Chris Bruno and Ryan Dickinson and First Assistant District Attorney Marianne Shelvey.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — District Attorney Timothy Shugrue has determined that State Police Trooper William Munch acted in compliance during what is being described as a "suicide by cop" earlier this month.
On Sept. 9, 64-year-old Phillip Henault reportedly placed a fictitious 911 call about an ongoing violent assault. Body-camera footage from the trooper shows the man advancing on him with two knives before being shot twice and collapsing in the street in front of his Richmond Road residence.
"Mr. Henault was actively using deadly force against law enforcement. There were no other objectively reasonable means that the trooper could have employed at the time in order to effectively protect himself and anyone that was in the home or the public. By virtue of his duties as a police officer, the trooper did not have the obligation to run away from Mr. Henault," Shugrue said during a press conference on Friday.
"Mr. Henault posed an active threat to the trooper and to the public. The trooper had a duty to arrest Mr. Henault who was engaged in various felonies. His arm was an active threat."
The DA determined that Munch's decision to fire his weapon at Henault under the circumstances was a "lawful and reasonable exercise of self-defense and defense of others" compliance with the policies of the State Police and commonwealth law, clearing the trooper of criminal charges and closing the investigation.
The lethal force was labeled as an "unavoidable last resort."
A preliminary autopsy determined the unofficial cause of death was two gunshot wounds to the torso with contributing factors of wounds to the wrists that were inflicted by Heneault. The final report from the medical examiner has not been issued.
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