City: Cab owner must complyPublished 11:04am Wednesday, December 14, 2011
A showdown between the city of Fergus Falls and Drivers on Call moved closer this morning when the public works and safety committee chose not to extend a variance to the city’s taxicab services while the city considers ordinance changes proposed by Drivers on Call owner Bob Bergh.
“He’s had a full year to come in and go through this with us,” said alderman Jim Fish, who is not on the committee but was present at the meeting. “Year after year, it’s down to the last doggone minute.”
Bergh declined to appear in front of the committee, choosing instead to send the city a letter spelling out his problems with the current city cab rules.
The reason Bergh opted to write a letter instead of addressing the committee is to get all of his complaints out in clear language, he said.
“I decided to do everything with this method so that everyone knows what’s going on,” he said. “I want everyone to know the facts.”
While Bergh told The Journal he’s open to coming to an understanding with the city, he restated his commitment to not obtain MnDOT-approved physicals from his drivers and said he won’t let the likely lapse of his cab license in the city keep Drivers on Call off the roads.
“I have no intentions of shutting down at the first of the year,” Bergh said. “I have commitments to my people and I shall continue with them.”
Some committee members (and other alderman) sympathized with some of Bergh’s complaints, particularly about the MnDOT physicals. Bergh became particularly unhappy with the physical process after he learned that one of his drivers was able to put false information into the document – making the physical relatively worthless, in his opinion. He also complained that the physical process does not include drug screening.
“I think we can drop the MnDOT requirements and do our own local physicals and (drug screenings),” said Mayor Hal Leland.
However, no council member wanted to cut Bergh slack on doing the physicals for his 2012 license, saying that if Bergh wanted to avoid penalties, he should have brought his concerns to the council earlier.
“I don’t want him to feel like he can’t bring his concern to us … but the law is the law is the law right now,” said Alderman Jay Cichosz.
Bergh has a few ideas about how to keep his cabs running after Jan. 1, the day his license will lapse if he doesn’t submit the necessary paperwork to the city. One plan is to make the company a private transportation business, requiring riders to have free “memberships” in order to ride (a plan that still might face city scrutiny). He added that he might take legal action against the city if it goes after Drivers on Call drivers.
Though Bergh would prefer that the city throw out its cab ordinance entirely, he would be happy if the city evaluated the ordinance from the top down and completely rewrote it with more modern sensibilities. Parts of it are hard to understand or hard to comply with, he said, adding that the amendments made to the ordinance have not helped the decades-old document age well.
“I’m not a professional writer,” he said of his ability to understand the ordinance. “I’m just trying to operate a business.”