Expired license limits service of Bethel Express.

RUMFORD – An apparent misunderstanding led to the impromptu picketing of the Rumford Municipal Building Friday when a taxi and shuttle service company didn’t get its license renewed in time.

Four people, including at least one part-time employee of Bethel Express, and two regular riders of the service, turned out with several placards saying that the Board of Selectmen was unfair when they failed to renew the company’s license at a board meeting held Thursday night.

“They were unfairly shut down on a technicality. We did not know it was due,” said dispatcher Ralph Metcalf.

Selectmen turned down a request for a renewal at Thursday’s board meeting because the necessary paperwork had not been filed in time to provide public notice. The board said at that time that the matter of the renewal, which is usually fairly routine, can come up at the next meeting set for April 17.

In the meantime, the company can drop off passengers in the town of Rumford, and pick up passengers that are going out of town. They cannot pick up and drop off passengers that have a Rumford destination without the required taxi cab license.

Town Manager Robert Welch and Bethel Express owner Tammy Tuttle agreed that the necessary application, fee and insurance confirmation weren’t filed in January, the date that the company’s license was due for renewal.

Apparently, a former manager of the Bethel Express office in Rumford had planned to get the proper paperwork in January. But before he did, he left his job. When the new district manager began his work a short time later, he did not know that the license hadn’t been issued.

Welch was made aware of the lack of a license when a resident lodged a complaint earlier this week. He notified the Bethel Express Waldo Street office on Thursday that they had to limit their services until the license was renewed.

“I told them I was sorry, but they had to shut them down because their license had expired,” he said on Friday. “It’s not up to us to notify them licenses are due.”

Tuttle said limiting service will hurt her business. Three part-time drivers will be without work for about two weeks, as well.

“This is a misunderstanding that could have been resolved in January. It would have been nice if the town had called,” she said.

She took issue with the process that requires a two-week notice before a license can be renewed because a public hearing must be held.

“We’re already in business. The process seems ridiculous and a waste of time. It puts a squeeze on my business and I have employees who want to work,” she said.

She said her company will abide by the rules laid down by the board and the town’s by-laws.

Under the by-laws, once taxi cab companies file the necessary paperwork, the Board of Selectmen sets a public hearing for its next meeting. Following the hearing, and providing all requirements are met, a license is issued for the calendar year, or if filed during the year, until the end of the calendar year.

Bethel Express was issued its first license in September, 2002, which was valid until Jan. 1, 2003.

As for the Municipal Building picketing, she said the decision was up to the employees. “It’s freedom of speech,” she said.

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