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Council gives Lori's Lift a ride back in business

Lori's Lift is back in business after the Mitchell City Council dealt with the issues facing the local taxi company. The council on Tuesday approved the taxi license application that was tabled from the Jan. 7 council meeting with a 6-2 vote, but...

Mitchell City Hall. (Republic file photo)
Mitchell City Hall. (Republic file photo)

Lori's Lift is back in business after the Mitchell City Council dealt with the issues facing the local taxi company.

The council on Tuesday approved the taxi license application that was tabled from the Jan. 7 council meeting with a 6-2 vote, but not without pressing owner Lori Claussen about the legal matters she's currently facing, which involve operating a taxi business without a state sales tax license for almost an entire calendar year, along with allowing alcohol consumption on her taxi without a permit, according to testimony from previous meetings. Councilmen Dan Allen and Kevin McCardle voted against the approval.

Assistant Police Chief Mike Koster spoke to the council on the update of Claussen's legal matters.

"Currently, Claussen has a valid sales tax license, along with a carrier permit," Koster said.

Claussen spoke to the council on behalf of the legal matters she's facing and acknowledged that she made mistakes on the two issues that forced the council to table her license application from the Jan. 7 meeting until today's meeting.

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Following Koster's testimony, Councilwoman Susan Tjarks then asked Claussen if she has paid the back taxes that she owes from failing to apply for a sales tax license on Oct. 16, 2017, after her initial approval and vehicle inspection.

"I paid my back taxes on Oct. 8, 2018, and they're actually due again today, so I will file them tomorrow," Claussen said to the council. "Everything is now paid up, and I do have a carrier's license, but I admit allowing alcohol on the taxi was wrong."

In September, Claussen took a group of passengers to Grand Falls Casino in Iowa, and photos of passengers with open containers of alcohol surfaced on social media, according to Koster. Claussen said the party bus incident was a trial run, which was mainly for advertising the taxi service's plans to obtain a carrier permit to allow alcohol on her bus.

Koster confirmed that Claussen's legal matters are under an ongoing investigation with the state's attorney's office, which council member Jeff Smith took issue with in approving Claussen's license.

Due to the pending investigations and legal matters Claussen is facing, Smith asked City Attorney Justin Johnson if it's possible to let the state's attorney's office complete its investigation into whether charges are filed or dropped.

"I don't know when or if the state's attorney will be making a decision on that, so you can certainly deny or table the license or decide to issue it and make it subject to review if the state's attorney ends up filing charges," Johnson said in response to Smith's question.

Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson addressed Claussen after her lengthy testimony, and said it was disheartening that she scrutinized Speedy Taxi during the Dec. 17 council meeting that ultimately played a role in the council's decision to deny Speedy's license.

"I think that you've paid your back sales tax," Tjarks said, "and went through obtaining the carrier permit, even though it was after the incident when you had people with open containers. I'm going to move to approve this license."

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Lyft's taxi ordinance change request

During the citizens' input portion of the meeting, Lyft driver Tim Goldammer asked the council to reconsider the city's taxi ordinance involving rideshare taxi services such as Lyft.

"We would like to request consideration for the council to look at the current taxi ordinance that we feel isn't updated to fit the needs of Transportation Network Company (TNC) taxi services," Goldammer said. "We feel by the city updating this ordinance, the playing field will be equal to other taxi services."

According to Goldammer, under the current taxi ordinance in the city of Mitchell, each Lyft driver pays $100 for vehicle inspection, and he's requesting the council to change the wording in the ordinance to lower the inspection cost to $50.

"It would certainly open the door for more taxi drivers to come on board with Lyft, specifically during peak times like bar rush, where there is a limited capacity for the number of drivers that Mitchell's taxis have for those services," Goldammer said.

Tom Anez, driver and council advisor of Sioux Falls' Lyft, accompanied Goldammer in his request for the council to reevaluate the taxi ordinance.

Anez said if the Lyft drivers in Mitchell are unable to handle a high number of passengers, which he said is very frequent on weekends, Sioux Falls' Lyft drivers have been asked to come over and assist in the Mitchell area.

Under the current taxi ordinance, Anez said Sioux Falls drivers are unable to assist because of a subsection in the city of Mitchell's taxi ordinance.

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"I don't believe that's the intent of the ordinance in talking to the city attorney, but it's an easy change that we request the council to consider," Anez said.

Consent agenda

The following items were approved at once during the consent agenda portion of the meeting:

• Approved the minutes of the Jan. 7 council meeting and committee meeting.

• Approved department reports.

• Approved the following raffle permit: Masonic Hall Building Association with a drawing to be held Feb. 2, 2019.

• Set the date of the following hearings: Feb. 4, 2019 for the application of V.V. Inc. DBA Sudz to transfer retail (on-sale) liquor license located at 508 and 510 East Havens to Potter's Plus Studio LLC located at 100 North Main Street, Feb. 4, 2019 for the application of V.V. Inc. DBA Sudz, 508 and 510 East Havens for a new retail (on-off sale) wine license (video lottery excluded).

• Approved new taxi license applications for Cary Muilenburg, Robert Buchholz and Thomas Schaffner, all of Lyft.

• Approved gas and fuel quotations for Jan. 14, 2019.

• Approved Jan. 22, 2019 pay estimates.

• Approved bills, payroll, salary adjustments and new employee hires and authorized payment of recurring and other expenses as approved by the finance officer.

Other business

The council also:

• Pledge of Allegiance, invocation from First United Methodist Church, roll call.

• Heard citizens' input.

• Held a hearing and action on the application of Los 3 Amigos, LLC for a retail (on-off sale) malt beverage license located at 1522 W. Havens (video lottery excluded).

• Held a hearing and action on the application of Los 3 Amigos, LLC for a retail (on-off sale) wine license located at 1522 W. Havens (video lottery excluded).

• Approved Lori's Lift taxi license application (tabled from the Jan. 7 city council meeting).

• Approved agreement No. A2019-01, Servicemen's and Legion Cemetery maintenance agreement.

• Approved an agreement for No. A2019-03, Lakeview Vet Clinic animal shelter.

• Approved Resolution No. R2019-02, setting recurring small cell facility ROW recommendation at $270 per-site per-year.

• Approved Resolution No. R2019-03, a plat of Tract 1 of Boyd addition, an addition in the Northeast Quarter of the Southeast Quarter (NE1/4SE1/4) of Section 2, township 103 North, range 61 West of the 5th P.M. in Davison County.

• Approved Resolution No. R2019-04, a plat of Tract 1 of Nedved Addition, an addition in the Northeast Quarter of the Southeast Quarter (NE1/4, SE1/4) of Section 8, township 102 North, Range 60 West of the 5th P.M., in Davison County.

• Approved Resolution No. R2019-05, a plat of lot 15, block 9 of the Woods First Addition, a subdivision of the East 1/2 of the Southwest 1/4 of Section 23, T 103 N, R 60 W of the 5th P.M. in Mitchell.

• Approved Resolution No. R2019-06, a plat of lots 1, 2, 3 and 4 of WTC Addition in the Southeast 1/4 and the Southwest 1/4 of the Northeast 1/4 of Section 5, T 103 N, R 60 W of the 5th P. M. in Davison County.

• Approved Resolution No. R2019-07, a plat of lot 5 in Tract D, Wild Oak Golf Club addition in the city of Mitchell.

• Approved Resolution No. R2019-08, a resolution setting water rates for 2019 that would increase water fees by $2 per month and sewer fees $5.75 per month.

• Approved Resolution No. R2019-09, a resolution amending the 2019 sewer rates.

• Approved Resolution No. R2019-10, cemetery regulations and rates.

• Held first reading on Ordinance No. O2019-01, trees and shrubs chapter updates.

• Held first reading on Ordinance No. O2019-02, an ordinance that changes the zoning district classification of the real property legally described as lot 9, block 7, Rowley's first addition, from neighborhood shopping district to R2 single-family residential district.

• Held an executive session, but no action was taken.

• Heard citizens input from Mark Vaux, executive director of the Mitchell Area Development Corporation and Chamber of Commerce.

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