Volunteers hit with new fees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2002

The Austin Finance and Personnel committee decided not to waive the fee for 24 licenses in a request from the Mower County Transit, Monday.

The Volunteer Driver Service, also part of Mower County Transit, is a program in which 24 volunteer drivers provide transportation to people, primarily senior citizens, or those who do not have a way of transportation to medical appointments or other facilities in the community. Volunteers use their own cars and insurance.

Passengers pay 18 cents per mile plus an administration fee of $3.50. People who cannot pay for the fee are supplemented by Mower County according to the written request.

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After recently learning that the drivers would need to acquire taxi licenses in order to comply with city licensing ordinance, MCT requested the city to waive 24 taxi licensing fee of $270 and take the amount from 2003 contribution that the city gives every year.

The committee voted not to recommend the issue to the present council because, according to the city attorney David Hoversten, the council does not have the authority to waive the license fee.

"I am disappointed about the decision," Director of Human Services Bruce Henricks said.

The Volunteer Driver Service, Henrick's explained, has been around for at least 20 years and it was formed due to the lack of public transportation available and now it has become part of the county transit.

"Recently, we learned that we need to be licensed by the city and we did not have the money to finance the licenses," Henricks said.

Gabriela Danker, volunteer coordinator, took 12 of the drivers to get their taxi licenses and will be taking the rest of the drivers today. Drivers also use magnetic signs to be put on the vehicles.

"We are hopeful that our financial results will generate enough funds to cover the cost." Henricks said.

Council member Wayne Goodnature said the committee needs to get a group together from both sides and discuss the issue.

Roxana Orellana can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at roxana.orellana@austindailyherald.com