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Liveries seek to change DeKalb limo ordinance

DeKALB – A number of limousine companies will operate illegally without a license as they try to reconcile and change an ordinance regulating them.

The owners of Hayes Limousine Service, Blue Sky Limousine and DeKalb-O’Hare Limousine Service met with city officials Wednesday to discuss the issues and complaints they had with an ordinance that regulates limos in the same manner as taxicab companies.

Pete Hayes of Hayes Limousine described the meeting as productive, but added he would continue to take customers even though the 60-day grace period for existing companies expired Monday.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Hayes said.

On July 23, the DeKalb City Council passed an ordinance that requires all limo companies to be licensed by the city.

In addition to the licensing, the ordinance also requires liveries to carry at least $500,000 in insurance, perform background checks on their drivers and maintain a record of their customers and destinations that the city can inspect.

Before his meeting with Mayor Kris Povlsen, City Attorney Dean Frieders, City Clerk Diane Wright and a police officer representing Chief Eugene Lowery, Hayes described the ordinance as being the most anti-small business ordinance he has ever seen.

“I’m flabbergasted by the amount of stuff they want from us,” Hayes said.

The meeting cleared up some issues, but not all of them. Frieders said there are some changes in the application that could be made that still accomplishes the goal of the ordinance.

Hayes said he is concerned by the power the ordinance grants the city manager. The ordinance allows the city manager to take into account the marketplace and number of current operators before approving a license.

With how the ordinance is worded, Hayes said a company with a large fleet could saturate the city with limos, and thus the city manager could decide that there does not need to be any other licensed operators.

Frieders described this concern as being purely theoretical, noting that none of the owners who were present for the meeting has even applied for the license.

“If they actually went through the application process, they’d see how business-friendly the city is and how carefully we’ll work with them to address any concerns that they had about how the actual process worked,” Frieders said.

Hayes and the other owners said they have no intention on giving the city a copy of their records.

“It’s none of their business,” said Paul Uplinger, owner of Blue Sky Limousines.

Hayes said they’re more than happy to comply with a criminal investigation, but there’s no “practical purpose” for the city to require those records.

“It’s our private company, our private information,” Hayes said. “And it’s not necessary to operate in the city of DeKalb.”

However, Sam Abdullah, owner of DeKalb-O’Hare Limousine Service, said the city might be open to negotiating changes in the law. Any such changes would have to be brought before and deliberated on by the DeKalb City Council.

Some changes will be harder to pass than others. The ordinance prevents limo companies from using drivers that have committed certain criminal offenses within a certain period of time.

Hayes said this could be a burden to companies that are struggling to find drivers, especially ones that have reformed. Frieders, however, did not predict much change from the council on this front, as there is no objective guide for measuring reformation.

Frieders said the situation highlights the importance of participating at public meetings. While the owners were contacted about the ordinance and showed up to the meetings before the passage, no owner addressed the council on what kind of impact the ordinance would have on them.

“I wish that these companies would have been more vocal participants at the time before the ordinance was passed,” Frieders said.

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