Taxicab ordinance discussed

After a presentation Monday on the city’s taxicab ordinance during the Sherman City Council regular meeting at City Hall, Council members requested City Attorney Brandon Shelby draw up a new ordinance.

Shelby recommended repealing or amending the ordinance, which he called “unenforceable,” during his presentation to the Council, but no motion was made for change to the existing ordinance, which was originally adopted in 1976 and last amended in 1995.

“Since we’re not enforcing our taxicab ordinance, we’re not generating any revenue from it,” Shelby said. “We have power as a city to charge a franchise fee, charge a fee for the licensing. At the very least, we should repeal the old ordinance, and it’s up to you what we replace it with.”

Sherman Police Department Chief Tom Watt and City Manager George Olson both confirmed that they’d received no calls of complaints on the taxicab ordinance. Shelby said he’d heard from a taxicab company over a year ago that was interested in doing business in Sherman but decided against it when told of the existing rules.

“The complaints that I’m aware of have actually come through (the Texoma Area Paratransit System) or the state’s Medicaid office,” Sherman Mayor Cary Wacker said. “My main concern is I do not want this to be cumbersome, and I want people to be able to do business in Sherman; but we do want safe, reliable, licensed cabs that are visible if we’re recommending them.”

Following discussion of possible additions to the ordinance, the city attorney concluded his presentation by offering a suggestion.

“What I’m hearing from you guys is you want me to do away with the old ordinance and bring back something at an upcoming meeting that’s streamlined and we’re capable of enforcing as a city,” Shelby said.

The Council then verbally confirmed they’d like to see a new ordinance at a future meeting.

Customer Service Manager Angela Gurley informed the Council of a new interactive voice response system to be installed in the city’s phone system that will allow residents to pay their utility bills anytime over the phone. Teleworks, the vendor providing the service, is not charging the city for the system, though the city will have to pay setup fees of less than $1,000 to its phone provider.

“This is going to be a transaction-based agreement,” Gurley explained of how Teleworks will be paid. “It’ll be $1.25 per successful transaction, which is paid by the customer. This is currently the same amount the customer pays online and by calling into the office.”

While the new system will be one of several ways city customers can pay their bills, it will add the option of electronic checks and is expected to save city staff hundreds of hours by freeing them from taking routine payments.

“When customers call in and pay over the phone, it takes about 3-4 minutes per call to process,” Gurley said. “With over 4,800 calls per year, we’re going to see a savings in staff time of 240 hours.”

The IVR system will be available in English and Spanish, and the system is expected to go into effect in February 2013 — following two months of software integration and training.

The purchase of a 2013 Ford F-350 cab and chassis truck for use by the street maintenance department was also authorized. After requesting bids for the vehicle through the Texas Local Government Purchasing Cooperative, the city purchased the truck from a local Ford dealer despite its price being $242.80 more than the lowest bid.

“The ability to work with a local vendor and spur the economy and take possession of the vehicle in a matter of weeks instead of a matter of months, we see the benefits of that,” City Engineer Clay Barnett said.

The $30,683.80 purchase price was included in the 2012-2013 street maintenance department budget.

The Council also accepted its contract with Vessels Construction Company as complete following the ending of work on the second phase of the Wastewater Treatment Plant’s peak flow improvements. The project was funded through a Greater Texoma Utility Authority revenue bond issue and included a pipeline from the equalization basin to the storage area and modifications to the existing sludge basins for peak flow storage.

After a presentation on the Sherman Christmas Parade and Snowflake Festival, scheduled for Friday, Dec. 7, from Sherman Chamber of Commerce Events Coordinator Lauren Roth, several members of the Council used their time during the Council comments section of the agenda to wish everyone a merry Christmas and encourage them to attend Friday’s annual events.