Government

Putnam County Seeks to Regulate Taxi Industry

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MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Putnam County is seeking to create a commission that would oversee the licensing and permitting of taxis within its boundaries, but needs permission from its municipalities, including Carmel, before it can move forward.

New York State law leaves the establishment of such a commission to individual municipalities; however, counties can do it if all the towns within their purview sign a letter of permission.

Carmel town officials said at last week’s Town Board meeting that the county wants to make sure drivers are regulated and properly insured and that background checks are done. County officials are asking for the towns to turn over regulatory authority. The idea, they said, is to make sure a growing industry stays safe.

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Supervisor Ken Schmitt said he believes the county would be better suited to oversee the taxi industry

“They are in a better position to do it,” he said. “We seem to have a large majority of [cabs] in Carmel and Mahopac. Every time you turn around there is a new name out there.”

Town officials said it was not clear what exactly the new commission would regulate and what it would require of cab companies. One possibility is it could limit the number of permits made available to avoid overcrowding busy streets. Councilwoman Suzi McDonough said she would be reluctant to turn over the town’s regulating authority until she knows exactly what the proposed commission would regulate. She said she would be opposed to limiting the number of permits.

“I don’t want to limit the number of drivers,” she said. “We are seeing more and more young people using the cabs for when they go out and we shouldn’t limit that. I don’t want to cut the number unless they are willing to let something like Uber come in. That would be great. But I am not sure what they want to do.”

Councilman Frank Lombardi said the county simply wants a letter of permission at this point and that the rules the commission would enforce would be developed over time. He noted that there would be public hearings with citizen input and feedback from municipal officials.

“I am not sure if they know exactly what the framework will be right now,” he said.

McDonough said she would be uncomfortable supporting the measure until she had more details.

“I want to know exactly what they would regulate before we give permission,” she said. ”I am perplexed by that. I couldn’t vote for it [until we know more.]”

The board was expected to draft a letter of permission and a resolution and then vote on the matter at this week’s Town Board meeting.

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