Kuester questions drivers’ wages
By Bert Lehman
Sunday taxi service in the city of Clintonville has not been approved yet.
The Clintonville Transit Commission held a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 16 to discuss plans for adding Sunday taxi service in the city of Clintonville. When the meeting concluded, the commission delayed making a recommendation until Dick Koeppen, owner of Truck City Taxi, finds a driver for Sunday service.
Prior to the discussion, Lois Bressette, alderwoman and acting mayor, informed members of the commission about what transpired at the most recent Finance Committee meeting as to why the issue was sent back to the Transit Commission.
“If you are going to be requesting additional taxi service, which would be on Sunday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon, you have to make that request to the Finance Committee and also to the council if you are going to be requesting additional services to be provided in the city, and that was not done,” Bressette said.
She added that the commission was misled when it was originally told that the city would incur no additional costs for the Sunday taxi service.
“At finance [meeting] your Transit Committee chairperson was told the city does not have the money to fund this service at this time,” Bressette said.
Mary-Beth Kuester, chairwoman of the Transit Commission, told members of the commission that she made a mistake when they last met. She said she misinterpreted information she received from someone with the state.
Commission member Greg Rose said the number of city services have decreased since he’s been in Clintonville, and he thought Sunday taxi service might be a good service to add.
Rose added that he also wanted to see names of people who would use the service, as well as estimates of the number of people who would use the service.
“I also wanted to see that the taxi is properly promoted so we can maximize it to our citizens,” Rose said.
Rose said he agreed that if there is a cost for the Sunday service, it has to go through the Finance Committee.
“It was never my intent that this was going forward, straight to the public,” Rose said.
Commission member Jim Krause said a 30 day trial is not long enough.
“They’re (citizens) not ready to make a decision probably for the first three weeks,” Krause said.
Krause recommended a 60-day trial.
Commission member Lance Bagstad questioned what information the need for Sunday service is being based on. He asked if any surveys have been conducted.
“I think it’s premature to think a trial service should even exist if we don’t know if there is any demand for it,” Bagstad said.
Kuester said she has spoken to members of the community who work with senior citizens. She said she also receives phone calls requesting the service.
She also acknowledged that Saturday ridership is low.
Kuester then stated that she has received questions as to why employees of the taxi service didn’t receive a wage increase like city employees did. She also claimed she researched as to when the taxi service employees last received a raise.
She then said employees of the taxi service are not city employees.
Bagstad interrupted asking if the commission was discussing Sunday taxi service or a raise for the taxi drivers.
Kuester brought up wages again later in the meeting.
Again, Bagstad responded.
“I don’t think the wages Dick [Koeppe] pays his employees is a point the commission can even step on,” Bagstad said. “We’re contracted with Dick for the shared taxi service and I think we have to respect his decisions from a business standpoint. I think our decision is to decide what service is in the best interest of the citizens in our city.”
Koeppen also responded about wages.
“I’m a private company. I don’t think it’s anybody’s business,” Koeppen said.
He added that the discussion is another example of micromanaging.
Brad Rokus, a city council member who was in attendance, stated, “Mr. Koeppen runs a private business. What he does with his private business, as a businessman, he has a right to run it the way he sees fit. I don’t think city government’s function as a committee, council, regardless, we have no business telling him what he needs to pay. That point should have never been brought up because it is none of our business.
The commission decided to continue to gather information, and wait while Koeppen tries to find a driver for Sunday taxi service. Once a driver is found, the commission will meet again to make a decision about having a pilot program for Sunday taxi service.
Koeppen was also told at the meeting that Truck City Taxi can fuel up where ever it wants, and maintenance to the vehicles can be done where he chooses.