Rhinelander to see new cab company in 2021
By Eileen Persike
The city of Rhinelander will have a new Shared Ride Taxi (SRT) service in 2021. The Rhinelander City Council voted Dec. 14 to contract with Viroqua-based Running, Inc. after a four-person committee scored Running higher than current SRT provider Rapid Cab.
SRT service is a subsidized program funded by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Transit Authority (FTA). The city only contributes to the cost of the service if revenues do not exceed the expenses of the program.
The committee charged with reviewing and awarding the contract was comprised of Mayor Chris Frederickson, mayor’s assistant Zach Vruwink, council president Ryan Rossing and city finance director Wendi Bixby. In an update emailed to media earlier this month, Vruwink wrote that the proposals were evaluated “in accordance with the Source Selection Guide” and the contract awarded based on the highest combined score in the areas of “professional competence, experience, capacity and proposals.”
At the beginning of the Dec. 14 meeting, Greg Bruso of Rapid Cab spoke to the council. He said he delivered more than 1,000 petitions to city hall in effort to overturn the decision, saying that “It’s obvious that Rapid Cab is being railroaded out of the city,” by the council’s actions.
Bruso said the cost to the city and local businesses in one year would be more than $168,000.
“All this comes at a time when every other community, including our own chamber of commerce is pleading with people to buy local,” Bruso said. “The city of Rhinelander is pushing our local business away. Those dollars will be spent in Viroqua.”
The procurement process began in August with the request for proposals. Rapid Cab and Running, Inc. were the only two proposals received by the due date in October. Finance director Bixby said the federal government requires the committee to follow the FTA-compliant procurement process in order to receive federal funding. The contract is awarded based on the proposal, not the history of the company, she said.
Saying it has gotten “more onerous” since the last time the city went through the SRT procurement process, Vruwink said the city still must strictly adhere to the rules.
“The city is the sub-recipient, under the Wisconsin department of transportation, of federal monies and therefore we have to live with the rules that come associated with federal money, unless you want to backfill it locally with our own cost or charge for the true cost of the program, which is far more than the reduced fares that are currently being offered to users,” Vruwink said.
He added that the hours of operation and services, such as Safe Ride Home, will remain the same as they are with Rapid Cab.
The motion to approve the DOT-recommended contract with Running, Inc. for an initial one-year period of the 2021-2025 RFP passed the council 7-1, with alderman Tom Kelly voting no.