Macksey Wants 'Teeth' in Taxi Ordinance

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The mayor is asking for an updated taxi ordinance with clarity — and some teeth. 
This is prompted in part by violations made by a local cab company in which police were hamstrung in their ability to enforce city ordinance. The City Council at a special meeting on Wednesday put OTT taxi on notice with a warning further infractions could mean suspension or revocation of their license to operate. 
"We don't have anywhere that gives anyone — even under the non-criminal disposition — an ability to give them a fine," Mayor Jennifer Macksey said on Wednesday. "We're not going out looking for people just to give them a $50 ticket. But when we're in a situation like that, we have no teeth."
Macksey had indicated her intention to bring the matter to the council and its Public Safety Committee after last week's public hearing on On Time Taxi's license. The company was accused of having unlicensed and underage drivers and unmarked cars being used to pick up fares.
The mayor, Police Chief Jason Wood and Lt. Anthony Beverly had hoped to meet with Public Safety on Wednesday but the committee did not have a quorum. However, they expressed some of their concerns to Chair Bryan Sapienza, who said he would try to schedule another meeting next week. 
Macksey said some of the language was outdated, asking that "Commissioner of Public Safety or his designee" be changed to "police chief or his designee." Other concerns she had were raising the age for drivers and length of time in holding a driver's license. 
"You can't rent a car at age 18," she said. "You shouldn't be able to drive a taxi."
Beverly said the ordinance was "ambiguous" when it came to how long someone should have held a Massachusetts license. It sets a minimum of 12 months, which the mayor thought should be higher, but not when that 12 months might occur. 
"It can be read two different ways," he said. One way, it means someone must have had a license for at least the prior year.
But read another way, it could be that someone could hold license for a year in 1938, then not again until 2023, continued Beverly. "You say, 'Oh, that guy's good.' If you read it that way, he's good to drive that taxi, right?"
It should clear how much time the applicant had a valid license, and when that time occurred, he said. 
The mayor wants some enforcement measures added, including who has the authority to impose fines or other penalties.
The only fine listed is that of $5 a day if the taxi operator does not provide the clerk with a list of current drivers on Jan. 1 and July 1 each year.
Wood had noted that OTT could not be cited for ordinance violations because there was no mechanism for doing so. The matter had been referred to the council with documentation because it had the authority to suspend or revoke licenses. 
"With the city ordinances and even just in general with our department as well, when things come up we recognize, OK, well, this doesn't really make sense," he said. "It doesn't ... mean we're looking for somebody, but it needs to be fixed."
The mayor said the three topics they brought up on the taxi ordinance were the hot ones, but she asked that the committee go through the ordinance line by line and look at ordinances and bylaws in other communities. 
Macksey said her administration would be looking at other issues with the city code.
"When we come across these things, I want to bring them to the floor and put them in committee and then have dialogue like we should have tonight," she said. "We can work on it and then bring it back to the committee because sometimes we beat it up on the council floor. Nobody knows what and where we ended up and then it goes back and forth too many times."
She also wanted to go through online code because she said there were a number of recent ordinances that were not updated, such as the curfew and snow removal ordinances. That is done by a third party through the city clerk's office.
"At the end of the day, if that's the publication that we have out there for people to read, that's all we can expect them to know," said Beverly.

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