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REPORTING · 22nd January 2013
Walter McFarlane
The airport taxi service which Council Funded last December is still drawing some scrutiny from the public. Joanne Ong sent a letter of support to Kitimat City Council which was addressed on Monday, January 14th.

The letter explained how Ong was in Multilevel Care and was approached by one of the residents. She was told there were no taxis in Kitimat’s fleet which could take an electric wheelchair to the airport. “People do need to feel they have access to be able to get to the airport in the same way as others who are going to the airport in the taxi,” wrote Ong.

The airport taxi service is subsidized for people who meet the following requirements: People over 60, people who have a disability with a caregiver and economically challenged individuals or families.

Councillor Corinne Scott wanted further information. Deputy CAO Warren Waycheshen explained there were people in the community who could not use a taxi service. The reason for this was due to their electric wheel chairs or scooters which do not fold down and fit in the cab.

“What would be required is something similar to what the Kitimat minibus and Haisla Shuttle is using right now for transporting people because that is fully accessible. That is the only vehicle which is available to take people to the airport that have mobility issues,” said Waycheshen.

He explained it would require something like the Kitimat Mini Bus to take people to the airport, but only if it is required to do so. While the taxis are $87, the minibus is about $200. The cost would be higher but there would not be as many people eligible to take the minibus to the airport.

He suggested Council either opt into this or ask for a report back. He emphasized it was only a few people who could not use the taxi service.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked for Administration to bring back a report based on the letter. He wanted staff to bring back more detail and said there are cabs which can accommodate wheelchairs.

Scott said it was not the wheelchairs; it was electric wheelchairs which could not be folded. She wanted to know how a person in an electric wheelchair got on a plane at the airport or sit in a seat.

“This has been brought to our attention that we haven’t covered everybody with disabilities and we realize that. I am looking forward to the administration report because we know there are limitations in what we’ve provided as far as taxi service,” said Scott. “To get the ideal situation where it is like our handidart service, but a small bus where everyone can use it, we’re looking at $20,000 plus [per] month to provide that service going back and forth, possibly empty.”

Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to see an additional report on how well the taxi service is being used by the three user groups.

“A constituent came up to me on Saturday and said, when they phoned Saturday Morning for a Taxi to Emergency in the Hospital, they were told that most of the cabs were at the airport and one was on a long term trip to the village. There are individuals to do with industry which are taking taxis to and from the airport as a matter of course. That is there preferred way of going,” said Goffinet.

Councillor Edwin Empinado also wanted to see the numbers as a friendly amendment. Feldhoff pointed out there were wheelchairs which were not portable. He wondered if smaller portable electric wheelchairs could be made available.

The motion to have administration report back was called and carried.