Freedom Vans to operate service
By Bert Lehman
In 2018 the city of Clintonville’s taxi service will be operated by a new company for the first time since its inception in 1993.
The Clintonville City Council awarded the city’s taxi service to Freedom Vans, LLC, based out of Bryant, which is northeast of Antigo.
The awarding of the contract took place after the city council met in closed session for approximately 30 minutes at a special council meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.
After reconvening in open session Council President Mike Hankins made the following motion, “Your honor, I move that we would approve the taxi contract as presented.” The motion was seconded.
After Clintonville Mayor Lois Bressette asked for a roll call vote, Clintonville City Attorney Keith Steckbauer urged the council to add the specific years of the contract to the motion.
Hankins added that the contract is a two year contract, with renewal opportunities after the third, fourth and fifth years.
A vote was immediately taken, with the motion passing 8-0. Aldermen Mark Doornink and Lance Bagstad were not at the meeting.
The city’s taxi service had been run by Dick Koeppen since it began March 1, 1993.
During the public comments portion of the Dec. 12 Clintonville City Council meeting Koeppen expressed his concerns about the most recent bid process for the city taxi service.
Koeppen provided the council with a brief history of the taxi service.
No matter what happens to the city’s taxi service, the Truck City Taxi name will stay with him, he said.
“Because I would be looking for other transportation opportunities with that,” he said.
Koeppen said that in the past he worked closely with the city’s Transit Commission, but the commission has had almost no contact with him recently.
He added that he thought the bids were due Nov. 15, only to find out the bids were due in October. After that he said nobody at Clintonville City Hall would speak with him because of the bid process.
“Evidently I missed the Oct. 18 date, thinking it was Nov. 15, and it’s really quite upsetting to me,” Koeppen said. “I take some blame, but not all [of it] because we don’t work closely together anymore like we used to.”
He then asked the council to reject any and all bids that were received for the city’s taxi service.
The Tribune-Gazette contacted Koeppen after the council awarded the taxi service contract to Freedom Vans.
“After being a provider for 25 years for the taxi service here I really feel bad,” Koeppen said. “Our whole staff feels bad.”
He said the recent bid process was “a real mixed up, screwed up mess.”
“Five years ago we bid and I was in complete communication with the city of Clintonville’s Transit Commission, and now all of a sudden with different management at city hall, the Transit Commission wasn’t involved. No one was allowed to talk to me and I wasn’t allowed to talk to anybody at city hall since the middle of September.”
He added, “The city administrator would not allow me to talk to anyone, any alderperson, anybody at all, it was just like I was barred from talking to anybody. I couldn’t even ask a question of anybody. So we missed the bid deadline and that’s our fault.”
Koeppen said he is proud of the taxi service he ran and the money it put back into Clintonville’s economy.
“We really felt we put a lot of dollars in the local economy,” Koeppen said. “We feel bad we can’t continue but I guess that’s the way the rules are and that’s the way it is.”
City admin’s statement
Clintonville City Administrator Sharon Eveland provided the following statement to the Tribune-Gazette:
“The taxi service is a valuable service the city of Clintonville provides to its residents. While the city does fund part of this service through the tax levy, 75 percent of the taxi funding comes from the Department of Transportation. As such, we are required to follow very strict guidelines, including during the Request for Proposal process.
“The procurement manager with the DOT assured me that Stacy, our Utility finance director, followed this process perfectly. When the deadline for the proposals passed, Stacy informed me that we had only received one bid and it was not from our current provider. We checked with the DOT office and were told that rejecting a proposal solely because we received only one was not a valid reason for rejecting the proposal and that we could be subject to the loss of federal funding for the taxi service for doing so.
“Ultimately, the proposal we received was a valid and responsible proposal. As such, it was the review committee’s recommendation to accept the proposal from Freedom Vans, LLC. While our current provider, Dick Koeppen, has consistently provided excellent service for two decades, often going above and beyond what was required of him and his company, the taxi service will be transferred as of January 1 to the new provider, who I hope will provide the quality of service that our residents have come to expect.”