Monti Taxi License Issue Continues
By John Emerson
MONTICELLO May 5, 2000 -- An attempt to increase the number of licensed taxis and widen the number of companies offering taxi service failed Tuesday night despite a public hearing where public sentiment at the meeting indicated strong support for the proposal.
More than 100 people attended the public hearing at the Thompson Town Hall to offer their support for increasing the towns supply of taxi medallions by five new licenses. In addition to the vocal public support at the meeting, Phil Vallone, the owner of Ronnies Royal Car Service, a Fallsburg-based livery service, presented a petition containing 400 or so signatures in support of the expansion.
When, following the hour-long public hearing, it came time to take a vote on the proposed local law, Supervisor Tony Cellini made the motion, but the issue died when no one else on the board would offer a second. No vote was taken.
I always thought a public hearing was to hear how people feel about something and then follow the public sentiment, Cellini said. In this case, I think the results, with 400 signatures and 95 percent of the people speaking in favor, were overwhelming, and I supported it.
The town currently has 22 taxi licenses. Twenty of those licenses are owned by Alan Kestens Yellow Cab. The remaining two licenses are owned by Kevin Healey and Call-A-Cab, but that company operates out of the same East Broadway location as Yellow Cab and is dispatched by Yellow Cabs dispatcher.
I think the town board did what was right, Kesten said. Im going to leave it at that.
At one point during the public hearing Cellini tried to broker a deal between Kesten and Vallone to see if they could come to an agreement over the sale of some of Kestens licenses. Vallone purportedly offered Kesten $100,000 for five medallions, but no agreement was reached.
Although he declined to comment on the amount of Vallones offer, Kesten did say that the offer was a third of market value. When asked what market value for the licenses was, he replied there was no set formula to determine the value but that market value is for sure more than I paid.
Kesten did acknowledge that he would be addressing many of the complaints raised about his taxi service during the public hearing.
I heard everything that was said [during the public hearing], he said. The complaints that were raised will be addressed immediately.
Ronnies Royal and Yellow Cab have been battling for several years. Recently, drivers from Ronnies were ticketed and fined for operating taxis within the Village of Monticello without a proper village license.
Vallone argues that he is supplying livery service to customers within the town and village rather than operating a taxi service, a fine distinction within the law. Before the public hearing, he said that, even if the town did not increase the number of licenses available, he was in no worse shape than he was before.
He has also said that he is providing a service to Monticello that is not currently being met by Yellow Cab. He said if Yellow was providing adequate service then there would be no need for him to enter either the town or the village.
Many complaints against Yellow Cab center on the timeliness of response and the cleanliness and overall mechanical condition of the taxicabs.
Now that the latest battle is over, Cellini said it is time to look at the towns taxi ordinance to determine if it should be rewritten rather than simply increasing the number of licenses available. He said one of the things he wants to look at is increasing the annual fee for a license to operate a taxi.
One thing I learned is that these licenses have real value, he said. We may need to rethink how this ordinance was written. If these licenses are that valuable, then why shouldnt the town gain some revenue from them? It may be that the $35 fee were charging isnt enough.