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Cutting back

Cutting back Cutting back

City to trim taxi service hours, number of vehicles to save money

by Brian Wilson News Editor Changes are coming to the city’s shared ride taxi service.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting Mayor Mike Wellner reported there would be cutbacks in the hours of service and the number of taxis running at any time as a cost-control measure.

Changes include scaling back hours on Sunday afternoons and Friday evenings and in the early morning during the weeks.

The city is in the process of negotiating a five-year contract with Brown Cab company to operate the taxi service. Brown Cab was the only bidder for the service and has run the service in Medford for many years.

Due to federal grant requirements a special committee separate from the council must handle the contract bidding and negotiations. Wellner serves on that committee.

The initial contract from the company included an approximately 35% price increase. The city then countered asking for options to reduce the expense. The proposed reduction in service were the recommendation of Brown Cab based on their ridership data.

“We took their recommendations,” Wellner said, noting that it got the city close to what it was paying in the past.

According to city coordinator John Fales, a major component of the new contract will be the city receiving demographic information in regard to usage. This data will allow the city to fine-tune the service hours to make sure the needs are being met. Currently Brown Cab doesn’t share that data and the city relied entirely on the company’s recommendations.

Alderman Mike Bub asked if the data will show if there is a backlog of users at any times. “Will we see if going from two to one cab operating would cause a backlog or waiting list?” Bub asked.

Wellner said that they will likely only know the impact of the changes if complaints are made either to city hall or to aldermen. “I haven’t gotten any complaints in the past few years,” he said.

Bub said he thought it was weird that the hours were being cut back. He noted that he serves on the county’s transportation committee and that the Commission on Aging bus program with Black River Industries is booming with ever-increasing ridership.

Wellner noted the city’s ridership has been up, it is just a matter of aligning the hours of service to when people are using it.

Alderman Laura Holmes said the only complaints she has received have been on holidays with people wishing to visit later in the day and the service not being open to be able to take them home.

“We can’t satisfy everyone in regard to the dollars we have available,” Fales said.


The city will be replacing its three severe weather alert sirens.

Aldermen approved spending $49,950 with Federal Warning System to replace the sirens. The sirens are the same make and model that the other municipalities in Taylor County have in operation. Keeping uniformity will allow the sirens to be tested weekly and operated in an emergency by Taylor County.

Bub questioned if the sirens are still relevant as a warning tool given the increase of cellphone alert systems available through the county and other sources. He questioned that as people become more connected if this is something that will still be useful in future years.

Streets/Water superintendent Joe Harris, said city personnel talked with the emergency management coordinator and others and was told that the sirens are still the primary way to alert people if there is severe weather.

Alderman Clem Johnson noted that the sirens are primarily for people who are outside of their homes so that they know to take shelter.

Money for the new sirens will come from city reserve funds.

In other business, aldermen:

_ Approved sending a street vacation request to the planning commission. This will formally start the process to vacate Forest Street. This street was planned as part of the Morning Side addition to the city decades ago, but was never constructed. Instead Ogden St. was built and homes were constructed on the dedicated Forest St. right of way.

_ Approved updates to the labor and equipment charges the city assesses for work done by the public works department. The cost reflects the total burden cost of the employees and is adjusted each year. The city will charge $58.63 per hour for work to private and outside groups and $42.83 for work done for other city departments.

_ Approved the formal appointment of Kathy Tom as the new city treasurer. She was hired in September to replace treasurer Kevin Doberstein who is retiring at the end of December. Fales noted that Doberstein has agreed to remain available for the next year in case issues arise.