By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — Five, five and five are the magic numbers.
Like Solomon, city councilors have decided to answer the demands of three cab companies asking for 15 new taxi licenses by splitting the difference, so to speak.
A final judgment on the compromise will be made by the full committee next Thursday.
The three companies appeared on Feb. 24 looking for more licenses than the city had available. Before councilors realized they were dealing with a shortage, 10 licenses went to the Sunshine Cab and five to North Shore Taxi. That left applicant Igor Likterov of Tri-City Taxi with none.
“If we all apply at the same time,” Likterov asked, “how come when I apply, there are no licenses?”
Even Likterov’s competitors agreed it was unfair.
That left councilors, who met Thursday night as an ad hoc committee, to come up with a solution.
Sunshine partners Carmen Gaeta and Joe Mahan pleaded that as the smallest of the three, with only three licenses, they ought to be given some consideration. “We’re the new kids,” said Gaeta. “We’re still in the building process.”
“We would be completely happy with a five-five-five solution,” said North Shore’s lawyer, James Mears Jr.
“It’s not up to us to play catch-up with the companies,” cautioned Chairman Mike Garabedian. “It’s to be fair. There are 45 licenses in Peabody. I think that’s quite a bit.
Eventually, Gaeta came forward and offered to end the impasse by accepting the five, five, five division.
Noting that two handicapped-accessible taxi licenses have gone unclaimed, Councilor Tom Walsh grilled each taxi boss on why. All three cited costs, noting that the licenses not only require a special vehicle but a trained driver.
“It certainly is cost-prohibitive,” said Mears.
Walsh said restaurants and hotels have made these accommodations, “and I see no reasons in a city this size that the same should not be done by the taxi cab companies.” He even suggested tying the acceptance of a handicapped license with the issuing of more regular licenses.
Members paused, however, wondering over the legality of that. Walsh promised to pursue the issue further.
The City Council expanded the number of licenses from 30 to 45 last year upon the requests of the taxi companies. At that time, councilors indicated that the licenses would be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Deputy Police Chief Marty Cohan explained that in addition to the cab licenses, there have been 142 licenses issued for drivers. Each driver must meet standards established by the City Council, including a criminal records check. The cabs themselves are inspected twice a year.
Individual cabs are generally licensed to multiple communities, usually including Beverly, Salem and Danvers. Councilors initially gave concerns about the environment as one reason for granting more licenses. Currently, some cabs from Salem taking people to Peabody lack the license to pick up fares going back to Salem. Thus, they must make the trip empty, wasting fuel.