Salem council to take up new taxi rules

SALEM – Police Chief J.T. Panezott said he sees no issues with the proposed changes for the taxicab ordinance, which is on the agenda for tonight’s city council meeting.

The Rules & Ordinances Committee of city council voted last week to recommend new requirements for taxicab business operators and their drivers, including making drivers register as subcontractors for a fee of $50, allowing police to inspect the vehicles, require markings for each vehicle and include transit vehicles in the rules.

“I thought somebody needed to do enforcement,” Panezott said.

Under the new rules, the chief of police will hold powers regarding inspections of taxicabs and transit vehicles, with random inspections for compliance of rules for display of door signs, rate schedules and licenses.

He said they’ll be inspecting the vehicles to make sure they’re safe and checking for the rate cards to make sure drivers aren’t taking advantage of people. He said the old rules didn’t require anything of the drivers and people had no idea about the background of the drivers.

“I felt these people should be licensed and have background checks. You’re putting your life into their hands,” he said.

Panezott said they also heard people were using vehicles not marked as cabs. He explained there’s such a thing as “gypsy cabs” which just show up without being licensed in a city and claim to be a cab.

The bottom line is safety, he said. They want the cabs to be safe vehicles for people, both equipped safely and being driven by people whose backgrounds have been checked.

He noted the addition of transit vehicles, too, and explained he saw a van picking up a bunch of people which looked like a transit vehicle.

According to the definition in the ordinance, a transit vehicle “means a motor vehicle that is engaged to carry one to 15 or more persons, excluding the driver, for hire on a per person or hourly basis to a prearranged contract or agreement for the transportation of passengers on public roads and highways along a route under the control of the person hiring the vehicle and not over a defined and regular route.”

The ordinance will also require the keeping of logs or manifests, requiring drivers to record the origin and destination of each trip and the amount of the fare. Panezott said they’ve had cabs show up at crime scenes and not have any records about the trip.

Tonight’s city council meeting is at 7. Also on the agenda will be the addition of a paragraph to the ordinances dealing with M1 light industrial and M2 heavy industrial zones which would prohibit auto wrecking lots, scrap yards or junk yards in the city.

The Rules & Ordinances Committee voted 3-0 last week to recommend the change to the two ordinances.

The paragraph to be added reads: “No lot or premises may be used for auto wrecking, scrap yard or junk yard which would include, but not be limited to, the collection, sorting or processing of scrap or salvage material or for the storage of such material or for the extraction of gravel, sand or other raw material.”