Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
A Safety Taxi owner supported an ordinance change Tuesday that will require taxis in Salisbury to have meters.
James Boyd said the metered rates will replace zone fares and help customers know exactly what they owe for service. Customers will be able to see the meters, and thats what we want them to see, Boyd said.
Three Salisbury taxi services Safety Taxi, Latino Express and Reserve-A-Ride will be affected by the ordinance change, approved by Salisbury City Council after a public hearing.
Sgt. Rodney Harrison of the Salisbury Police Department said the proposal for meters was requested by the taxi services. The taxi services themselves will decide on the metered rates, not the city.
Harrison said he expected the taxi services will probably go with uniform rates within the city and some flat rates to certain destinations outside the city limits, such as regional airports in Charlotte and Greensboro.
Fares outside the city have to be agreed upon with the customer before a trip begins, with the meter running at least to the city limits in case the customer changes his mind.
Rates for service will have to be posted in the cabs and with the Police Department.
Harrison said installation of the meters will cost about $200 per vehicle, with the costs being absorbed by the taxi services.
Contract and para-transit transportation services are exempt from having meters.
Since the taxi services seem to want the meters, Mayor Pro Tem Paul Woodson said, he saw no reason to oppose the ordinance change.
Only Boyd spoke at Tuesdays public hearing.
In another matter, City Council set June 5 as a public hearing date for adoption of some new city code sections related to off-street city parking lots; city parking lots with rental spaces; the designation of city spaces for rent and regulations for all parking spaces.
The city maintains seven off-street parking lots, including the City Parking Lot at North Church and West Council streets; the Central City Parking Lot off East Innes Street and behind Bernhardts Hardware; the North Lee Street Parking Lot behind The Gateway; The Plaza parking lot; the City Hall parking lot, the Depot parking lot and the Eastern Gateway Parking Lot next to Robertson Gateway Park.
Facilities Manager Deb Young says many of these parking lots have been added to the downtown over the past 20 years without city ordinance updates to include them.
Because of that, the city has limited legal means to enforce parking regulations, Young reported.
The city cannot legally enforce the maximum amount of time a vehicle can park in the lots, the time of day in which the lots can be utilized or have guidelines for the display of parking permits for rented spaces.
Management Services Director John Sofley told council Tuesday that the only real authority the city has had was to tow cars away, if needed.
The proposed ordinance changes would give the city manager authority to designate spaces for rent and to define the rules and regulations for each lot.
This ordinance will improve the citys ability to tailor changes that need to be made at each lot, based on input from Downtown Salisbury Inc., the Police Department and the Planning Department, Young said in a memo.
Sofley added that staff realized that the citys existing code has not covered newer city parking lots and was limited related to the longer established ones.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or