Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Athens Taxicab Board: You Never Knew

by Meryl Swiatek

The Who What?
Even lifelong Athenians have probably never heard of the Athens Taxicab Board, and the trio of board members are well-aware. Chairwoman Paula Moseley, Secretary Rick Mayer and Treasurer Steve Pierson met on March 21st for the first time in over a year when they approved a new license for Athens resident Gary Kerber to operate Go To Cab Co. Just a month later, however, the license was suspended when Kerber’s insurance company notified the board that he had canceled the policy on his two cabs.

The May 12th meeting featured a hearing on this suspension and Kerber’s license was ultimately reinstated when he proved that he had switched insurance carriers in April with no lapse in coverage. Pierson reminded Kerber that his insurance policies had to be valid for the life of his taxi license, which is until the end of this year.

There are a total of three Athens taxicab companies, and the owners of the other two (Alice Kennedy of Tabs Taxi and John Rinaldi of Athens Transportation were also in attendance and more than a few eyes were rolling during open discussion. Kerber tells Athens MidDay that he previously worked for Athens Transportation under Rinaldi and according to the meeting minutes from March 21st, Rinaldi said there was “certainly” a need for more taxicabs in Athens. His statements at the time helped the board members decide that there was a public necessity for more taxis, which led to them issuing a license for another cab company—Kerber’s Go To Cab Co. But now there seems to be some bad blood between the former employer and employee.

Rinaldi appeared at the meeting with his lawyer Rusty Rittenhouse, who presented a series of photos of Kerber’s Go To Cab Co. cabs, saying that the signage was similar to Rinaldi’s Athens Transportation cabs and pointed out that the signs read “Athens Go To Cab Co.” when the license was for the name “Go To Cab Co.” Rittenhouse said that Kerber had not remained true to his original taxi application and should have his license suspended again for these infractions. He also began an argument that Kerber lists his company as “Go To Cab Co.” in some places and “Go To Cab Co. LLC” in others, and that the two terms were not interchangeable and actually represented two separate entities. Chairwoman Moseley stopped him, however, and said that such a discussion was beyond the board’s scope and should probably be taken up with the Law Director at a later date.

Kennedy addressed the board at the end of the meeting, asking if there was going to be a cap placed on the number of taxi companies allowed in Athens. She said her taxi business is her sole source of income, and that she’d seen a dip in business over the last few years. Moseley said that currently there is no law limiting the number of cab companies permitted to operate in the city, but that it would be something to consider if another application for a license is brought forward.

Rusty Rittenhouse addresses the board on behalf of John Renaldi

Taxicab Junkies Only
This might be the first many have heard of the Taxicab Board, but perhaps it will not be the last. The last item on the meeting’s agenda was a discussion of the board meeting notification rules the members discussed ways to make sure people knew about the board and its doings. Moseley suggested sending out e-mails via the city’s notification system to alert the public to future meetings, as well as gathering a list of people who wished to receive the meeting minutes.

They also agreed to try for a scheduled quarterly meeting on the second Monday of every third month. According to this schedule, the next meeting would be August 11. Moseley said the board’s contact information should also be posted on the City of Athens Web site so people can contact them with any questions.

“Right now, is the Taxicab Board listed anywhere on the city Web site?” Mayer asked.
“I’m not sure,” Moseley said.
“It might be up there with a page that says it’s under construction or something,” Pierson replied.
It isn't.

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