Taxi headaches, water main breaks

Chuck Wickenhofer
Police Chief Keith Schroeder (far left) discusses an updated taxi ordinance with the Devils Lake City Commission Monday evening.

The Devils Lake City Commission met Monday, and among the items discussed was an updated ordinance to the municipal code covering taxi licensing, and an emergency declaration related to several water main breaks on 5th St. NE between 6th Ave. and 8th Ave.

Police Chief Keith Schroeder, who drafted the taxi licensing ordinance, described the process by which new licenses will be granted.

“We look at their driving record, make sure they’re a safe and prudent driver,” Schroeder said. “We look at their criminal history to see if they have any criminal convictions of any nature that would suggest that they may not be appropriate to drive a taxi. Disorderly conduct, theft, assaults, things of that nature; those are the things we look at.”

Katie Linjatie, owner of Devils Lake Taxi, took issue with the inclusion of a “moral character” clause in the ordinance.

“(Drivers) have to have a drug test, which is fine,” Linjatie said. “Then the police chief looks at their criminal record, and then he has the right to say no or yes to their application based on their moral character. He can just deny anybody.

“If their record is clear, and their drug test is good, then they should have a (taxi) license,” Linjatie added.

The ordinance specifically states, among other qualifications such as procurement of insurance, that the applicant be "a person of good moral character.”

Schroeder indicated that the moral character language is not unique to licensing procedures in Devils Lake. Recent conflicts between those belonging to rival cab companies in the city also apparently factored into the inclusion of the clause.

“There were some sections that were added that specifically covered that, but they were nothing that we made up,” Schroeder said. “It was something that other cities had adopted. We (researched) Jamestown, Grand Forks, Fargo and Mandan.

“It would have to be something that we could demonstrate specifically why someone would fall into that category,” Schroeder continued. “We can’t just say, ‘No, I don’t like that guy, I’m not going to grant him a license.’ ”

Though the commission unanimously passed the ordinance after giving Linjatie an opportunity to voice her objection, she was unsatisfied with the outcome.

“The (moral clause) is the only concern they let me address, then they made me stop,” Linjatie said.

Linjatie also took issue with a section of the ordinance which states that “All taxicab operators and proprietors shall at all times keep a record of all calls, showing the date, the name of the driver, the time of the call and the address of the party calling, which records shall at all times be open to the inspection of the police department.”

“The police can come and get my records of who drives a taxi, if they ask,” Linjatie said. “That’s a violation of the Constitution.”

Though the ordinance does not seem to specify that cab companies keep a record of passengers’ names, Linjatie indicated that she was concerned with potential privacy issues.

“They’re also saying that I have to submit my records upon request of who rides what where, and I don’t think that’s constitutional,” Linjatie added. “It’s a violation of privacy.”

The final resolution of the day concerned a spate of water main breaks in the area of 5th St. NE between 6th Ave. and 8th Ave. City Engineer Mike Grafsgaard reported that five water main breaks have occurred in the area dating to last year, and thirteen breaks have happened in the past several years.

Grafsgaard noted that the cast iron water main in the area is approximately 100 years old, and that a “pipe burst method” would be implemented in order to handle the repair of the main.

The method has been employed with success in the city since 2004, according to Grafsgaard.

The commission declared an emergency in order to expediate the repair of the pipes, and a change order in the amount $159,000 was approved. Grafsgaard reported that the amount was well within the budget per the city’s contract with Murphy Brothers Pipeline Contractors.