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Inspectors target for-hire drivers

August 26, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Some drivers were pulled over last week in a new police initiative, but not for bad driving.

A state inspector and a Hagerstown City Police officer teamed up to begin targeting for-hire drivers, their cars and the companies for whom they drive.

There are no companies within the City of Hagerstown that provide a true taxi service, one in which a cab can be hailed from the curbside.

But taxi-like for-hire transportation services have drawn criticism from some city officials who complained about what they said appear to be cars that are not well-maintained.

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City officials have been considering ways to further regulate those services. The citations issued last week are seen as an interim measure while officials are designing new rules, City Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

One cab company owner reached Wednesday said she welcomed the new enforcement initiative and the possibility of the city taking over the industry's regulation.

The Public Service Commission inspector issued 14 citations last week, Public Service Commission spokeswoman Chrissy Nizer said.

The inspector was driven around by Hagerstown City Police Lt. Richard Reynolds, who pulled over the cars. The inspector spoke to the drivers and issued citations if she deemed them necessary.

Nine citations were issued for vehicles that were not registered correctly with the state agency. Three citations were issued for drivers who did not have proper licensing through the Public Service Commission. And two citations were issued for the taxis not being tagged correctly.

Nizer said the drivers worked for three companies: Four State Transportation, City Wide Transportation and Miller Transportation.

Each citation carries a maximum penalty of $500, but the citations will go through a hearing process in which the drivers or companies can present evidence on their behalf, reducing the penalty, Nizer said.

Denise Miller, who owns Miller Transpiration with her husband, said neither she nor her husband were aware of any citations given to any of their drivers, but she was aware that the inspections were taking place.

Miller said she did not mind the inspector's work last week, and said the possibility of the city taking over taxi regulation could be better for local cab companies.

"We try to have everybody licensed up (but) sometimes it takes a little while," Miller said. She said that with the Public Service Commission's main office in Baltimore, it is difficult to take care of paperwork.

"It may be a good thing" to have that administration here in Hagerstown, Miller said.

Representatives for Four State and City Wide transportation could not be reached Wednesday.

City Engineer Rodney Tissue said his department, which includes the city's code compliance office, has been putting together a proposal to take over for-hire transportation regulation, but he didn't expect any paperwork to be ready before the end of the year.

Tissue said because of the added work, the city likely would have to hire another code officer. The most recent hires to that office have been paid with fees raised through the city's rental housing licensing program.

In the meantime, Reynolds said local for-hire drivers in the city should be forewarned that there will be more efforts like last week's.

"This wasn't a one-time deal," Reynolds said.

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