The owner of the Yo Taxi transportation service said he no longer will provide rides in St. Clair because he has to pay a $50 business license fee.
His statement came after he appeared before the city’s board of aldermen last week to complain about receiving a letter saying he needed to obtain an annual operating license. He claimed he was being discriminated against because other transportation services do not have to have the same permit.
Charlie Burlington, who said he has owned and operated Pacific-based Yo Taxi for about 6-1/2 years, started his talk by saying, “I’m here today to try and get this licensing thing removed.”
“I feel like I’m being singled out,” he said. “Rules to operate transportation companies are very lackadaisical.”
Burlington claimed he is the only transportation company that is being forced to obtain a business license. He compared his pink-colored taxi cabs and its service to UPS or FedEx.
“I think we’re getting singled out, and I don’t know why.”
Burlington also mentioned he provides taxi service in four Franklin County communities, including his hometown of Pacific as well as Union. He said he only should be required to get a license in one city and be able to operate throughout the county.
“Maybe in Union because it’s the county seat,” he said. “Now, I have to go into all these city halls and do this and this. I just want to be able to continue my business and go about my business.”
Mayor Ron Blum told Burlington that as a former business owner who worked within the city as well as elsewhere, “I had to buy a business license with every municipality I dealt with.”
“My belief is that if you do business within a city, you need to have a city business license.
“And they only cost $50 once a year.”
Burlington responded by saying that construction work “has nothing to do” with transportation work.
“It’s like comparing apples and oranges,” he said.
He also claimed that the city has no one to monitor business licenses and potential violators.
City Attorney Kurt Voss then joined the discussion and said St. Clair has a specific ordinance stating that anyone who operates a taxicab business must have a business license and pay the $50 annual fee.
He also said that the city’s collector helps monitor business licenses and the city inspector looks into complaints regarding businesses that may be operating illegally.
“There is no one doing anything to stop anyone,” he said. “There is no one in charge. FedEx and UPS, who is going to call them up?”
Voss responded by reiterating that St. Clair has a specific ordinance dealing with personal transportation services.
“If you’re hauling anyone, you need a taxicab license,” the attorney said. “That’s different than FedEx or UPS.”
“The bottom line is that I’m being discriminated against,” Burlington said. “And I’m not going to be discriminated against.”
He then said “if it comes down to it, I’m willing to quit within the city limits.”
“I’m not going to argue with you,” Voss said. “If you do business in the St. Clair city limits, you need a license and you need to pay the $50.”
Shortly thereafter, Blum interrupted Burlington and said, “we’ve discussed this thing long enough.”
“You’ve made your point,” he told Burlington. “You need a license.”
“OK, then I quit my business within your city limits,” Burlington said.
“That’s your choice,” Blum said.
Another presentation to the board also was scheduled to take place during the meeting, but Ron Hallows, who has plans to reopen the St. Clair Mini Mart on Main Street, did not attend as scheduled.
Hallows was scheduled to talk to the aldermen about having the three parking spaces in front of the business at 365 S. Main St., which was closed earlier this year, to be limited to 15-minute parking when it reopens.
“Reason for request — to make the store shopping convenient for the motoring public they need to be able to park in front of the store to make it a convenience store,” Hallows wrote, adding that he was requesting the parking limit as well as signage indicating as such.
Blum asked St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack if he had any thoughts on the issue.
“Yes,” Hammack said.
“If we do this for one business, others will request it,” he said. “Also, it will be difficult to enforce. We’ll have to have someone up there looking out for it and marking tires. We just don’t have the personnel for that.”
Currently, the parking limit for spaces in the city’s downtown district is two hours.
After Hammack spoke, Ward 1 Alderman Zach Fuchs said, “I don’t think this is a road we want to go down.”
Blum asked Childers to notify Hallows that on-street parking limits will remain two hours.