Town approves one taxi licence, holds-off on second application

PORT HAWKESBURY: Town Council approved one taxi licence and put-off deciding on another application.

During the regular monthly meeting of Port Hawkesbury Town Council on Sept. 7, a taxi licence application was approved for Strait Area Transit (SAT) to provide wheelchair transportation, while an application from a local taxi business will be discussed at the committee-of-the-whole meeting on Sept. 21.

After Town Councillor Jason Aucoin declared a conflict and temporarily left the meeting, CAO Terry Doyle said SAT was using a bus that was covered under their licence agreement with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, but it broke down, and to stay within the confines of their licence, SAT needs a taxi licence to use smaller vehicles to transport those with mobility issues.

“Strait Area Transit is trying to accommodate a need in town for accessible travel, specifically for those in wheelchairs,” Doyle noted. “The requirement is to have wheelchair vehicles used to transport people with that need in town.”

Doyle said they are waiting for updated information from SAT, but he recommended approval of the request, considering the need in the town.

“We have asked for some information that has to be updated from the initial application,” the CAO told council.

Town Councillor Hughie MacDougall said he raised this issue about a month ago, but he cautioned that this is only for those with accessibility needs, and does not allow SAT to ferry people around Port Hawkesbury.

“We don’t want to get into the same situation we had here years ago where SAT was picking people up downtown, and bringing them to Sobeys, then bringing them home,” he said. “There’s no taxis in town that have a vehicle that can take anybody with a wheelchair. I’m hoping that there’s a clause in there or something that states that they’re just not going to open up again for picking people at the tavern at one o’clock in the morning and taking them home.”

Noting that this matter was dealt with years ago, Town Councillor Mark MacIver said he is fine with SAT providing accessible transportation only.

“I believe we had a verbal agreement with Strait Area Transit that they could use accessibility in town,” he recalled. “They were using Dial-A-Ride in town and it created a problem with our taxi operators. Strait Transit is publicly funded and their tax dollars were being used for competition against them.”

Doyle responded that the licence would be limited.

“We qualify the licence and the licence will be for the transportation of those in need of accessible transportation,” he said.

The mayor said it is important that all residents have access.

“It is super important that everybody has access to, whether it’s shopping, doctor’s appointments, any kind of mobility need where they need to get from point A to point B in their daily lives,” she said. “It’s great to have Strait Area Transit willing to step up to meet this need. We really do appreciate their efforts, and it’s really a win-win. We want to improve our accessibility here in town, no matter how people choose to move; whether they’re walking or in their wheelchairs.”

After council unanimously approved that motion, it decided to table an application from Mark and Theresa Cavanaugh who have taxi licences in Inverness and Richmond counties. Doyle said the company is applying for licences for two drivers.

“They’re interested in establishing a taxi business within the Town of Port Hawkesbury,” he stated. “We’ve been working with them over the last number of months to ensure they we have the required documentation. There are some items that we still require, but for the most part, the application is complete.”

Noting that this application has been outstanding for some time, Doyle said there are “some questions” surrounding insurance and inspections.

“We’re still working through that,” he noted. “There’s still a couple of things that we’re verifying so it’s not 100 per cent complete at this point.

Because they deemed the application incomplete, council decided to discuss it at the next meeting.