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Homestead jitney biz sparking concerns

A Homestead resident said she is concerned about the negative publicity that has been created by jitney businesses in the borough.

"With the possibility of more cuts in bus routes, limited ownership of personal vehicles, etc., I understand the need for a taxi jitney service in our borough," Carol James said Thursday night. "I don't understand council's attitude. It appears the jitney service is exempt from guidelines as specified by our own Homestead Code Chapter No. 119."

Borough code enforcement officer Thom Betz, who did not attend Thursday's council meeting, has said he received numerous complaints about jitney drivers in Homestead in regard to parking issues.

He also said he's gotten complaints about jitney drivers not paying a business privilege tax or having an occupancy permit.

Betz said a two-month investigation found that there are at least 39 jitney drivers operating out of three stands along Ann Street. He said he gave business privilege license applications to the stations on Jan. 9. Those licenses would require all individual drivers and the jitney stands to pay $75 a year, as other businesses in Homestead are required to do.

Betz said he was told by borough council to "let it alone." He said he listened to councilors discuss whether to fire or reprimand him at a Jan. 10 caucus meeting.

James said other businesses in the borough must have proper licenses and occupancy permits, pay taxes and pay the parking meters. She said that, as a borough resident, she must feed parking meters, report income and pay taxes even though she's on a fixed income. James said council is not requiring jitney drivers to adhere to Homestead code.

"Being a newer member of the community I would be afraid to use the jitney service as it currently operates," she said. "The first thing I'd be looking for is a form of identification or certificate stating the ride I'm accepting is endorsed by the borough, and that I'm not getting a ride from a scavenger."

James asked what measures are in place if an accident or other incident occurs when someone is being transported by one of the unlicensed vehicles.

"Has anyone thought who might be responsible for any legal action that might be taken?" she asked. "In addition, what message are we sending those businesses and residents who play by the rules and adhere to the codes as specified by the borough?"

Titmus deferred comment to Homestead solicitor Bernie Schneider, who said "no comment."

Betz also had said an ordinance passed on Jan. 12 that prohibits borough employees " excluding police officers " to carry a gun while working for Homestead was a form of retaliation against him. He said the new weapons policy puts him in danger.

Councilmen Drew Borcik and Lloyd Cunningham abstained from the weapons policy vote. After A Jan. 12 meeting, council president Susan Titmus said the policy was not a response to any incident.

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