By Michael Campbell, News Editor
PRINCE GEORGE – Following months of research and discussion between taxi operators, police, leaders at Fort Lee and the county, supervisors unanimously approved changes to their taxicab ordinance, dropping much of time-intensive processes for a simpler annual registration.
Taking effect on May 1, the modified ordinance would require the county’s taxicab drivers to fill out their personal information, such as name and address, name the company in which they work for, provide the number of years of driving experience they have, along with a slew of other questions related to their ability to drive and criminal and traffic violations.
Registrants would also have to provide a list of all past residences over the past five years and list the names and addresses of previous employers during the same time period, along with a recent photo, a copy of their current state-issued driver’s license and a letter from their taxicab company verifying their employment.
A $10 administrative fee would be charged at the time of registration and would be notarized.
The changes come on the heels of a series of discussions between the Prince George Police Department, led by Chief Keith Early, and the county about the intensive process of the previously in place taxicab ordinance.
During a work session in February, the police chief explained the current procedure has members of the force organizing, collecting and reviewing applications, conducting background checks on all taxicab drivers, totaling approximately 220, according to department data, and inspecting over 150 taxis yearly during a three-day period with around a half-dozen officers on hand to carry out the task.
Officers will also perform periodic inspections between the annual inspections and will provide permits, or “certificates of public convenience” to approved cab operators, all while managing records and conducting other taxicab-related business through the year.
At that time, Early stressed, “We are currently regulating businesses that are not conducting routine business with our residents or within our county.”
That business is being conducted on neighboring Fort Lee, which Early told supervisors that, “Cab companies come to Prince George for certificates that enable them to operate on base,” referring to regulations imposed by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, or AAFES, which requires cab companies to be “duly licensed by proper local authorities” in order to conduct business on the military installation.
Currently, per information provided by the transportation services section of Fort Lee’s website, Hopewell-based Marshall Cab and Richmond’s Airport Taxi are “authorized to operate on Fort Lee, providing transportation on/around post and in surrounding communities,” while other companies “may deliver and pick up customers on Fort Lee by request, but may not solicit fares on post.”
Representing Fort Lee during their February work session was Provost Marshall Major Joe Tull, who told county leaders that he would work with AAFES to ensure those registrations are accepted on base and, during Tuesday’s board meeting, Early stated that many of the obstacles facing the ordinance change have been removed.
Echoing Early’s past comments at work sessions, Supervisor Alan Carmichael hoped the changes will have an immediate impact on the county’s police department.
“I hope this frees up some of our officers and community police so they can keep doing the fine job they do here in the county,” he remarked.
Following a quiet podium at the public hearing, with no comments from residents or business owners, supervisors opted to approve the measure with all supervisors present voting in favor of the change.
One question that was left unanswered is the impact of the change on Uber drivers in Prince George. When asked by Supervisor Jerry Skalsky, Early stated that he “does not believe” this ordinance would impact their operations but admitted that he did not have a specific answer to that question for leaders.
With the new ordinance in place, cab operators do not expect to have any immediate impacts on their day-to-day operations on Fort Lee, with officials with Marshall Cab saying in February that any changes to a local ordinance would impact their contract with AAFES and such changes would be accounted for in their new contract with AAFES in the future.
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