BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — Selectmen last night moved to license four cab companies and kept the discussion going for one more, in light of fixes that town officials are asking Town Meeting to make to the taxi bylaw.
The changes are being made after police in February conducted a compliance check of cab companies, fining several for not having proper town licenses and permits.
The unintended consequence of the crackdown was that cabs stopped picking up fares in town (though they could still drop them off), and many who relied on taxis to get around were left stranded.
At the end of February, companies that applied for a license got temporary permission from selectmen to operate. Earlier this month, selectmen held a public hearing with cab company officials to discuss ways to change the 2009 taxi bylaw. At the meeting, cab companies threw out a list of items they said needed to be changed. One of the most pressing was a requirement that cab companies obtain $1 million in liability insurance coverage, something the companies said was not available.
Last night, police Chief Neil Ouellette pointed out that one of five applicants did not go through the approval process to permit its drivers. The other four, Nd-A-Ryd of Beverly, Salem Taxi Co., North Shore Taxi of Peabody and Land Jet Inc. of Salem had their drivers approved for a total of 25 taxis among all four companies.
Igor Likterov, owner of Tri City Services Inc. of Peabody, said he thought the discussion with the town was ongoing, so he did not have his drivers come to police to go through the permit process. When he asked the board which of the five companies did not have its paperwork in order, selectmen Chairman Bill Clark said, “You are the fifth company.”
“How I understood it,” Likterov said, “we are still discussing the taxi ordinance. ... We don’t know what we are applying for.”
Clark said the town wants to license cab companies now under changes being proposed on the Town Meeting warrant next month. These licenses would run until the end of the year, at which point cab companies would have to apply for licenses under the new bylaw. Clark said the bylaw changes cover five areas.
For one, Clark said, the board is dropping language that implied that cab companies have to have a Danvers office. The new bylaw requires only a local phone number, not a Danvers one. Most importantly, the amended bylaw reduced liability insurance coverage requirements from $1 million per incident to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident.
The changes also eliminate a requirement that cab companies must have “Danvers” lettered on the side of their cabs (a decal from the town will suffice) and lower the annual permit fee for drivers from $100 to $50 for each driver.
Likterov said the town failed to address his major concern, rates, which he said are too low. Danvers charges $1 a mile after the first mile, while Likterov said Lynn allows $3 per mile and Boston $2.85 per mile.
“You are still $1,” Likterov said, calling the rate outdated. Clark said the rate could be dealt with by Town Meeting.
Selectman Dan Bennett asked North Shore Taxi General Manager Sean McKinnon what rate his company was charging.
“We are charging the mileage rate according to the bylaw,” McKinnon said.
At the behest of Selectman Keith Lucy, the board kept the public hearing open so that Tri City Services could get its drivers permitted for two cabs. With 25 cabs now licensed, Clark pointed out that in Danvers, “You should be able to get a ride.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.