BIDDEFORD — The Biddeford City Council approved an amended version of a first reading to revisions to an ordinance pertaining to city inspections of taxi vehicles during a meeting Tuesday.

In a 6-3 vote, the council voted to repeal a required city inspection of commercial taxi vehicles, a topic originally discussed in its Jan. 3 meeting following taxi service Twin City Taxi’s announcement in November that it would not seek to license its cabs in 2017. 

City ordinance requires taxi cabs to be, “clean and in good repair inside and out and shall be
maintained at all times in compliance with the laws of the State of Maine relating to
passenger vehicles,” maintained in part by a city inspection by a Biddeford Police officer and a city code enforcement officer. 

But some business owners said they feel the inspection isn’t necessary because their taxis are already inspected by the state, and that the city’s inspection is too stringent, and drivers are unable to work until a inspection is complete — which they say could take weeks.

“The way the code is written now it puts our drivers out of work for different amounts of times,” Candice Laverriere, who helps oversee operations of Twin City Taxi, said before the council Tuesday. “We have drivers out of work for two weeks at a time, not being able to support their families.” 

The reduction in vehicles, she added, also slows down service, as people are forced to wait longer for cab rides to medical appointments, grocery stores or other destinations. Laverriere also said those delays could affect the company’s relationship with clients, such as Southern Maine Health Care or Maine Behavioral Healthcare, who contract with cab companies.

“Everything’s being affected by these codes being so broad and through how the process works,” she said.

Rick Long, owner of Twin City Taxi, also spoke before the council, saying he can no longer tolerate paying fees to the city for what he sees as an arbitrary inspection. 

“I’ll remind you that every time we’ve had a car inspected they’ve also had a brand new state inspection sticker prior,” Long said. “There’s no standards on what’s required. There’s no appeal process and, if there is an appeal process, how long are we waiting now?”

“I don’t want to see an interruption in service, I don’t want to punish my employees. I don’t want to punish the city of Biddeford or the people of Biddeford, but I can’t comply with this rule anymore,” he continued.

Biddeford Police Chief Roger Beaupre said Lt. Ricky Doyon, who completes the city inspection is certified to do so, and that the inspection is not as random as business owners say.

“Ricky Doyon, before becoming an employee of the city, was a mechanic and still does do mechanical work,” Beaupre said. “He decided 25 years ago to become a police officer, but has retained all state certifications and is a licensed state inspector for all vehicles from Class A to Class C.

“We’re not talking about a guy who doesn’t know mechanical work. We’re not talking about an individual who doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Beaupre added.

Beaupre did say, however, he felt the additional city inspection is unnecessary due to the state inspection process. He also said removing the city-mandated inspection would relieve the Police Department of some of its burden.

“It matters not to me because that is one thing less we have to schedule at the (Police Department),” Beaupre said. “I’m not one to put anyone through unnecessary steps or extra hurdles to get their job done and accomplished in a safe way.”

The council took up a proposed revision to the taxi ordinance that a city code enforcement officer may require any licensee to present a taxi cab for inspection whenever the officer deems necessary — as opposed to the previously-mandated annual inspection.

The language would mandate the cab company apply for a business license, Beaupre said, to allow inspections to be predicated on issues of substance rather than gut reaction.

City Councilor Rick Laverriere, however, motioned to amend the ordinance to eliminate city inspections altogether, given that the surrounding communities of Saco and Old Orchard Beach do not require inspections — although Saco does allow its code enforcement office to call an inspection if it deems necessary.

Councilor Laura Seaver agreed, saying she believes the city could be liable for damage and injuries should something fail with a taxi cab post-inspection.

“I would prefer it actually get sent to a state inspection station as opposed to us doing that here,” she said. “I don’t believe there’s a need for us to be doing additional inspections over what the state requires.”

The council ultimately voted 6-3 in favor of eliminating city inspections for taxi cabs, with Councilors Michael Ready, Bob Mills and John McCurry dissenting. The amended ordinance will go to a second reading at a later date for final council approval.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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