Annapolis cab drivers are paying a lot more for gasoline, and they want to pass along the extra costs to their customers.
And taxi operators aren't the only ones left scrambling by soaring gasoline and fuel oil prices. Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins already has ordered conservation measures for all departments, attempting to respond to an anticipated 30 percent increase in fuel costs.
In exchange for a fare increase, the cab drivers say they are willing to pay for annual drug tests the city has asked them to take. A committee of city officials and cabbies is working on a compromise to a drug-testing bill proposed by Alderman Wayne C. Turner, R-Ward 6, and Transportation Director James Chase.
The committee, Turner said, will meet once more to vote on proposed changes before sending them along to the City Council's Rules Committee.
Under the proposal, the basic fare would increase from $1.50 to $1.65.
The charge for each additional mile would increase from $1 to $1.05, but customers would get an extra seven-tenths of a mile before the higher mileage charge would start on taxi meters.
Turner said the proposed increase is a fair one. "The taxicab drivers don't want to hurt their business," Turner said. "They just want something that's economically fair."
Charles Peters, owner of the Yellow Checker Cab Co., said he is losing more than $100 a day because of gas prices.
"Since the gulf thing started, fuel went up more than 30 cents a gallon," Peters said. "All during that time, we haven't received an increase in anything. We're not trying to make a killing. We're just trying to keep from going under."
But Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, chairman of the rules committee, said he would make sure the committee studies the proposal closely and holds a public hearing.
"In this town, those who use the cabs the most are the poor," Snowden said. "It would be erroneous to assume the increase would be absorbed by tourists."
Turner's bill would require anyone applying for a city cab driver's permit or getting one renewed to take a drug test.
Those applicants failing the test would have their permits suspended.
The bill also gives the city's Transportation Department specific guidelines -- such as a certain number of felonies or points on a driver's record -- for denying or suspending a permit.
Turner and Chase proposed the tests after several applicants last spring were found to have criminal drug records.
In exchange for paying the estimated $46 for the drug tests, drivers also would get a break on physical examinations, which are now required annually. Under the plan, drivers under age 55 would be required to have physical examinations once every four years. Those over 55 would be required to have one every two years.
Cab drivers aren't the only ones affected by soaring prices at the gas pumps. The City of Annapolis expects to lose $85,000 by the end of the fiscal year next June if prices don't drop, said Finance Director William Tyler.
The city has budgeted $285,000 for fuel, most of which is used by city buses and police, fire and public works vehicles. "We don't have a lot of flexibility, so it's difficult to reduce," Tyler said.
Hopkins has told city employees to cut unnecessary trips, and department heads are looking at areas to cut, said City Administrator Michael Mallinoff.