Last Wednesday, the mayor and the village board held two hearings having to do with taxicabs as one company acknowledged non-compliance with the village code while its competitor tried to make a case for the need for more cabs. More than two hours later, the village board walked away with 1,000 coupons for discounted rides.
The first hearing of the evening was held because All Island Taxi violated the village code, which sets the price at $3 for a point-to-point ride in Mineola. In Mineola, the village board sets the fare price for rides for one location in Mineola to another location in Mineola. The price was set at $3. However, in mid-September, All Island was charging its customers $4 per ride.
Village attorney John Spellman presented evidence including an affidavit from a village resident, an affidavit from a village employee and testimony from another village employee that they were all charged in excess of the $3 allowed by village law.
Attorney Mark Spund, who represented All Island Taxi, which has 35 licenses to operate taxicabs in the village, acknowledged that All Island was charging $4 for rides in Mineola for three weeks because gas prices were astronomical. All Island had previously applied to the village board for a $2 fare increase. However, the village board denied the proposed increase on Sept. 14. All Island decided to raise its fee anyway.
In acknowledging that All Island violated the village code, Spund said All Island has been making amends by placing an advertisement in the Oct. 5 edition of the Mineola American, which contained a $1 off coupon for local rides, and by mailing out value packs in the community.
Since All Island was in violation of the village code, the village board had the right to suspend or revoke any number of All Island's 35 licenses to do business in Mineola. However, Mayor Martins acknowledged that All Island has been a good neighbor. But, the mayor and the board issued a strong warning. "There's a code and the code is very clear. It's our responsibility to protect the residents. That's why we have these rates," Mayor Martins said. "There is now a record of there being an offense. There are no three strikes. There are two strikes and you're out."
In addition to the warning, All Island agreed to provide the village 1,000 coupons for $1 off local rides.
The village didn't elect to serve All Island Taxi with summonses for their violation. The taxi law, therefore, did not authorize the village board to hand out fines. Had All Island been summonsed for the offenses, the company could have been fined but only after the matter was resolved in Mineola Justice Court.
Phil Fortuna of Long Island Checker Cab, which operates nine of the village's 45 taxi licenses, appeared before the board to apply for more licenses.
Long Island Checker was granted eight additional licenses two years ago. Fortuna testified that business has grown in the past two years and he needs the additional licenses to provide the good taxi service the residents deserve.
Fortuna presented a petition as well as a letter from the Mineola Golden Age Club in support of his application. There were members of the audience who testified in support of additional licenses while there were those including representatives from All Island Taxi that there is no need for additional cabs in the village. Some feel, however, that competition among the two cab companies would be good. There is also another cab company, Young's Taxi, which operates one license.
The board closed the hearing and reserved decision. The issue of whether the village is in need of addition cabs will be explored.