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Taxi Service a Source of Controversy in Monticello

By John Emerson
MONTICELLO — April 18, 2000 -- A recent case in the Monticello Village Court has spurred Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini to begin work on revamping the town’s taxi licensing ordinance to increase competition, at least within the town, and maybe the village.
The case involved four drivers for Ronnie’s Royal Car Service, who were found guilty of operating a vehicle as a taxi within the village without a village license. Each of the drivers was fined $175 for the infraction and released, but the action against the Fallsburg-based taxi company raised questions about taxi service within village and, by extension, the town.
“What I want to do is rewrite the law and issue the town licenses in blocks of five, with no more than two blocks going to the same company or to anyone who has an interest in more than one cab company,” Cellini said. “I think we need to increase competition and not let licenses sit unused.”
At the moment, there are technically two different cab companies that serve Monticello and the town. Yellow Cab, owned and operated by Alan Kesten, holds 19 of the 21 village licenses and 20 out of 22 town licenses. The other company, Call-A-Cab, holds the remaining two licenses in Monticello.
The owner of Call-A-Cab is listed in municipal records as Kevin Healy, but the company operates out of the same East Broadway location as Yellow Cab and is sent on calls by the Yellow Cab dispatcher. Ronnie’s Royal Car Service, owned by Phil Vallone, is licensed in Fallsburg and has operated within the village and town as a radio-dispatched livery service.
Currently, to operate in both the village and the town, a taxi needs both a town license and a village license on the same vehicle. Since the village and town laws are virtually identical, if the town changes its ordinance, pressure will be brought to bear on the village to amend their law to bring it into conformance with the town law.
Kesten said yesterday that he was not aware of Cellini’s plans for revamping the town’s taxi ordinance but stood ready to defend his ownership of the licenses.
“This is the first I’ve heard anything about it,” he said. “Since I own 19 licenses, I would think he would have to talk with me about it. If he goes ahead with this, I would have to litigate it.”
Vallone, on the other hand, is also ready to force action to see that changes are made in both the town and village laws.
“The way the law reads, any vehicle for hire – school bus, ambulette, taxi, limousine – must have a village license to operate over village streets,” he said. “They have chosen to enforce it only on the livery side of us. There’s been no problem for the buses or our ambulette service or the limousine. We’re in the midst of formulating a game plan on how to deal with it.”
Vallone said he attempted to purchase some of Kesten’s licenses several years ago, but Kesten refused to sell. He also said that, if the demand for his service was not present, he would not operate in either the town or the village as a dispatch from Fallsburg.
“We’re there to fill a need, and we’re filling that need,” Vallone said. “Our phone rings [in Fallsburg] because people are calling for our service. If Yellow Cab was filling the need, we wouldn’t be there at all.”

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