PORT CHESTER - The village board voted against handing over taxi licensing to the county this week and is considering whether to allow cab companies to conduct their own background checks and drug tests.
Mayor Dennis Pilla proposed giving licensing to the Westchester County Taxi and Limousine Commission because it could perform drug testing and background checks on drivers - measures the village does not take. He had argued that licensing through the county would cost less and would free up village resources.he Port Chester Taxi Association staunchly opposed the idea and staged a four-day strike last week. Some of the village's 125 cabdrivers have argued that passing the licensing applications to the Westchester County Taxi and Limousine Commission would lead to more stringent regulations. Pilla has said the commission does not have the legal authority to oversee livery cabs. The village board opposed commission control in a 4-3 vote.
Cabdrivers appealed to the board and asked if they could conduct the tests themselves.
In a new proposal presented Monday, the village's cab companies would charge drivers and hire a private agency to administer the tests, which will be completed by Aug. 20. Cabdriver licenses expired Monday.
The board will vote Monday on whether it will extend drivers' current licensing until September to allow for testing.
Pilla said letting the cab companies conduct the tests on their own still increases administrative tasks for the village, adding, "I don't see see significant efficiency gained for the village."
Stephen Neilsen, president of the Port Chester Taxi Association, said even if the board doesn't approve the new measure, the companies plan to do the tests anyway.
Drivers will have to pay $120 for the tests, in addition to the $195 they pay the village to process their applications.
"They want to prove they are safe drivers, so they don't have a problem paying for it," Neilsen said.
The municipality is also putting together a committee that will work to reform the village's taxi laws, ordinances that Pilla has referred to as "broken." The committee will be composed of taxi drivers, a cab company owner, a police officer and members of the riding public. Neilsen said the committee would serve to avoid future conflict between the drivers and village.
"It's going to be positive for us," he said. "The drivers will give input before any changes are made."
Pilla said it would give the public, law enforcement and the taxi industry a chance to discuss concerns and create more effective laws.
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