How many taxis should Monticello have?
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Amidst complaints that the process seemed to be going nowhere, Monticello’s village board decided Monday to have the village attorney draft a proposed law to add 10-15 medallions for taxi service.
Each medallion allows one taxi to operate within Monticello’s incorporated limits, and currently 21 are in use 16 by Yellow Cab and 5 by Sureway.
A public hearing called by the board to gauge interest in adding cabs drew only a handful of speakers Monday, most of whom make a living providing transportation.
Sureway’s senior Monticello cab driver, Gerald Fedderman, asked for more medallions for his company to level the playing field with Yellow Cab.
But he also urged the board not to make more medallions available to non-local businesses, arguing that the lack of competition has allowed him to earn a decent wage and purchase a home after three decades in Sullivan County.
“It would protect the income, if not better the income, of myself and my crew who work Monticello 12 hours at a time,” he explained.
“Do you think that’s fair?” asked Trustee Scott Schoonmaker.
“I don’t begrudge anyone employment,” Fedderman replied, but he still pushed for medallions only for Sureway.
“The board has an obligation to do what the people want them to do, not the two [cab] companies,” said Yvonne VanDunk, who with her husband operates A2B Taxi in South Fallsburg.
She has long urged the board to release medallions to A2B, which wants to expand into Monticello.
“It just seems like there is so much red tape, so much politics,” she lamented. “... What takes so long?”
Other speakers lodged complaints about service and response times from Yellow Cab and Sureway, and Mayor Gordon Jenkins and Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins said they recognized the need for more and better service.
“We shouldn’t be in the cab business,” Jenkins remarked. “Registration and inspection is all we should do with cabs.”
However, the majority of the board didn’t yet seem ready to go as far as Middletown businessman Chris Jacques wanted. The owner of a school bus transportation company that services area districts, including Monticello, Jacques has been encouraging the board to drop the medallion system in favor of open competition between whatever cab companies wish to serve the village.
In particular, he doesn’t buy the argument that medallions should be used to protect the health of local cab companies.
“Let the businesspeople protect themselves,” Jacques said. “Your board doesn’t protect the mayor, who owns a sneaker store downtown.
“All of your taxi companies agree they can’t service the public properly,” he pointed out. “... Allow your public to choose who they want to call.”
Jacques also threatened to bring in a free cab service which the village can’t prohibit if that’s what he deemed necessary to enter the local market.
Yellow Cab owner Alan Kesten agreed about the need for more cabs during the busy summer months, but he said that on a year-round, per-capita basis, “we have twice as many taxis as the City of New York.”
He feared that too many cabs would not only clog the streets but depress prices to a point where no cab company could make a profit.
“Maybe some will survive, but no one will prosper,” agreed Broadway businessman Sean Rieber.
“We have to be sensible,” added Trustee Victor Marinello. “You can’t give 50 medallions nobody will make any money.”
Trustees bandied about making available 10 medallions, then changed that figure to 15. The price for a medallion which in the past has sold for as much as $30,000 also fluctuated, between $5,000 and $10,000.
Some in the audience vouched for $500 medallions but unrestricted in the amount available.
In the end, trustees decided they’d get in touch with Village Attorney Jacob Billig, who was not present that evening, to draft a law that would modify the existing medallion rules.
The draft may be presented at the next board meeting on August 17 at 7 p.m., but even if approved, it must then go to a public hearing and subsequently be officially adopted by the board.