Taxi company’s interest in Bardstown spurs free market discussion

Nelson County Gazette

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 — A Lexington taxi company’s interest in establishing service in the Bardstown area sparked a discussion that examined local government’s role in how a business sets its rates at Tuesday’s meeting of the Bardstown City Council.

The council received a draft of an ordinance to revise Chapter 111 of the city’s ordinance book that regulates taxicabs.

Bardstown City Council Mayor Bill Sheckles said the review of the taxicab ordinance was initiated partly due to a Lexington company’s interest in establishing a taxi service in Bardstown. Larry Green, assistant city administrator, said he examined several cities’ taxi ordinances, including the one used in Lexington, in drafting the proposed ordinance.

The new ordinance, like the original, provides specific limits on the maximum charges a taxi company can charge consumers — a fact that did not go unnoticed by members of the council.

Councilman Fred Hagan noted the city’s current ordinance sets rates and questioned why the council was involved in a taxicab’s business decisions. “Why are we dictating what their maximum rates can be? What’s the purpose of that?” Hagan asked.

City attorney Tom Donan suggested the rate in the ordinance would help prevent price gouging during a big event, like the Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

“We don’t tell Kreso’s what they can charge for a beer during the Bourbon Festival,” Hagan observed.

Public Works Director Larry Hamilton said that perhaps the purpose was to ensure the taxicab rates were known and published.

“I don’t mind requiring they publish the rates, but this sets the maximum they can charge,” Hagan said, adding that some of the ordinance requirements “seem almost Orwellian.”

“I know this is copy brought from some other cities, but I just wonder why this particular has so many restrictions on it that others do not,” Hagan said.

City Attorney Tom Donan suggested it was to protect potential passengers who might otherwise fall victim to price gouging. Green added that for some people, paying for a taxi may be their only option for transportation.

“I don’t mind having the rates posted and published, but its the setting the maximum rate (the taxi can charge),” Hagan said.

“I’m in agreement with Fred on this,” Councilman Joe Buckman added. “I don’t think we should be telling a business what they can charge.”

“These are basically industry standards,” the mayor said. “But this is why I wanted you all to discuss it.”

Sheckles said the rates in the proposed ordinance are rates met the approval of the Lexington taxi company.

The city’s existing taxicab ordinance was approved by the city council in January 1948 and was amended in December 1975 and November 1997.

The council took no action, but will review the ordinance at a future meeting.


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