City Council to consider taxi stands, service fees

The East Lansing City Council will decide whether to move taxi stands from M.A.C. Avenue back to their original Albert Avenue location during its 7:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at City Hall, 410 Abbot Road.

The move will create six additional taxi stands on the south side of Albert Avenue’s 300 block, bringing the street’s total to 15 taxi stands. The stands would operate between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m., although it previously was recommended to cap the service at 2 a.m. and later at 3 a.m.

“We were concerned with the bars and the number of people who will still be in the downtown, so we extended it until 4 a.m.,” East Lansing Director of Public Works Todd Sneathen said. “We had a problem when it was 2 a.m. before — that’s just way too short. We had 90 percent of the people out after 3 a.m.”

East Lansing City Clerk Nicole Evans said police officials requested abandoning the M.A.C. Avenue location because it was too far a walk for people from the downtown district, and safety concerns arose given the lack of lighting.

The council originally voted to move the stands in November 2009 from the 100-200 block of Albert Avenue to M.A.C. Avenue because the growing number of taxi licenses required an area with more space to pick up patrons, Evans said. To control the situation, the city passed a three-month moratorium in August — a second of which was passed in December — on issuing taxi licenses to give the city breathing room as it assessed taxi congestion downtown.

Service fee for records

The council also will debate whether to implement a $2 fee to access property and tax information online.

The city uses a program from Bath Township-based BS&A Software to provide free property and tax information to all users on the city’s Web site, but can alleviate the $3,610 annual expense by charging individuals, East Lansing Assessor Jane Meddaugh said. Taxpayers will be able to view their own records for free online and can visit City Hall and view such information for free, but the online convenience will cost users.

“It’s pretty much a drop in the bucket when you look at how much government is a big business,” she said. “This is just a means of being able to have pay-per-view. The intention is not to hurt the taxpayer in any way.”

The city would collect 20 percent of each hit, a majority of which would come from accountants and realtors, Meddaugh said. Based on BS&A estimates of similar-sized municipalities, East Lansing could bring in an additional $1,200 in revenue and eliminate the city’s $3,610 in expenses to BS&A.

With the city facing a nearly $2 million budget deficit this year and a larger one expected next year, Meddaugh said some things must be sacrificed.

“It’s just that we’re at the point where some of the convenience things that are out there for free basically are going to have to either go back to the old way of coming back in and standing in line,” she said.

“Or, if you’re willing to pay for the convenience, you will.”

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