Members of Hay River town council have been hearing some concerns about the level of taxi services in the community.
“I think it’s something that we should keep an eye on because throughout the community it’s something that we’ve heard quite a bit about,” said Coun. Keith Dohey at the Jan. 27 meeting of council.
Council received a written report on the issue from Ross Potter, the town’s director of protective services, particularly about a recent outreach by town administration to the community’s two cab companies to ensure compliance with licensing under a municipal bylaw.
“With respect to level of service requirements, the Taxi License Bylaw does specify taxi
operators must provide 24-hour service, have some sort of communications device that is available on a 24/7 basis that is licensed with the proper authorities, and operate two vehicles per company,” the report stated.
Potter noted the taxi operators identified some causes for service interruptions, including cell phone issues which have been resolved.
“One if not both of the service providers have had staffing issues which has led to not having adequate number of drivers to provide immediate service to all customers,” the report stated.
Potter’s report added that both service providers do have the requisite number of two vehicles providing service, but with a legal requirement of only four vehicles that could cause significant wait times.
Town administration plans to continue to monitor the service, and will work with the companies to alleviate future licensing violations.
In response to the report, Coun. Brian Willows said he understands every business in town has problems finding employees, but the taxi companies are required to provide a minimum service.
“I don’t know what the answers are, but I know there have been a lot of complaints it seems over the last number of months,” he said. “So it would be nice to know if there are some solutions. I don’t have them at the moment.”
Potter noted that the town will be working in the future with both taxi firms.
The director of protective services, who is also the town’s fire chief, noted he has seen taxi cabs on the road in the early hours of the morning when he is on fire calls.
“So I know they’re out there, but there could be some other issues that we’re not aware of,” he said.
The two taxi companies in Hay River are Reliable Cabs and Island Taxi.
“The biggest single problem is finding employees,” said Garth Mackie, the owner of Island Taxi, when contacted by The Hub.
Mackie said it’s “virtually impossible” to recruit employees.
Right now, Island Taxi is operated by Mackie and one other driver.
Mackie said his understanding of the bylaw is a cab company is supposed to have a vehicle on the road 24 hours a day and have at least two vehicles.
However, he noted that Hay River is by no means a booming community and it is just not warranted to be on the road in the early morning hours of some days.
“There are certain times on certain days where we don’t have a night driver, but the call volume isn’t there on most of those days,” he said. “You’re not going to get an employee sitting out on a 10-or-12-hour shift to get four or five calls. It’s not worth it. I’m not leaving a vehicle running for all night to make a hundred bucks.”
However, Mackie said that people going to or arriving at the airport are taken care off more than adequately, along with people going to the hospital, going to work, or going shopping.
The company owner said he has discussed the level of service with town hall, and is willing to continue the dialogue.
Mackie noted that one way for residents to ensure a cab is available is to pre-book, which is an option he advertises right on the side of his vehicles.
Plus, he said that, if people have concerns about taxi service, they can talk to him directly.