Two experienced Island bus and van drivers seeking to form their own taxi business in Tisbury ran into an unexpected obstacle at their license hearing this week, when the owners of existing cab companies said the license in question was abolished after the death of its previous holder several years ago.

Anthony Harpaul and Jovian Taylor had a meeting with the select board Wednesday over their application to start Island Sharks Taxi. Tisbury has five active taxi licenses. The sixth license was held by Ira Yaffee’s AAA Taxi Company until he died in 2017. 

Several drivers claimed the town scaled back to only five licenses in the wake of Mr. Yaffee’s death and decided to no longer have a sixth one. Drivers need taxi licenses to operate.

“Ira passed away and his license was forfeited,” Peter Bradford of Martha’s Vineyard Taxi told the select board.

Melaney West, owner of Stagecoach Taxi, and Jeffrey Corr of All Star Tours and Transportation backed Mr. Bradford’s assertion that the sixth license no longer exists.

“It was dissolved by the board of selectmen after Ira’s death and more cabs were added to each of the licenses so they could put more cabs on the road,” Mr. Corr said.

If the town decided to go back to six licenses, the process hasn’t been transparent, Ms. West said.

Tisbury officials were not immediately able to confirm the company owners’ testimony, although select board chair Roy Cutrer — who was elected in 2021 — said he, too, recalled that Mr. Yaffee’s license was not made available for reissue.

But he wanted confirmation before voting on the new application.

“I would like to investigate what the intention was on the select board,” Mr. Cutrer said.

Town administrator John (Jay) Jay Grande said his office will engage in a records search for meeting minutes or other documentation of any action taken regarding the sixth taxi license.

“If it was a formal vote of the select board, it would have to have occurred at a public meeting,” Mr. Grande said.

The licensed cab owners at Wednesday’s hearing also told the select board that Tisbury does not have enough taxi parking spaces to accommodate another company.

“There’s up to 40 cabs licensed in Vineyard Haven right now and there’s only five parking spots,” Mr. Bradford said.

“I’m asking the board to deny the license, not because of the character of the applicants but to protect the existing businesses,” he said.

Mr. Grande said it may be possible to ease the parking crunch by rearranging the cab stand spaces at the ferry terminal, now that the pedestrian walkway there has been widened.

Mr. Harpaul and Mr. Taylor’s application drew support from several speakers at Wednesday’s hearing, including their past employer Scott Dario of Martha’s Vineyard Transport and MV Sightseeing

“They’ve been a real joy and pleasure to work with … very professional, and very trusting and very kind and polite [and] respectful, as well as they’re very clean,” Mr. Dario said.

Mr. Cutrer and select board member John Cahill voted to continue the public hearing to Feb. 7 while Mr. Grande and his staff researched the status of the town’s sixth taxi license. 

Select board member Christina Colarusso was absent Wednesday.

Among other business, the board gave its approval to a warrant article for the annual town meeting that allocates Tisbury’s remaining available wastewater flow by category of use.

A stopgap measure until the town finishes upgrading its wastewater facility, the article asks voters to designate 40 per cent of available flow to housing, 35 per cent to business and 25 per cent for town uses.

In a special meeting Tuesday, the board appointed Edward Christofono as interim town accountant for up to 90 days. Mr. Christofono previously worked as comptroller for the Martha’s Vineyard Airport before moving on to a similar position at the Vineyard Golf Club.

He replaces former town accountant Suzanne Kennedy, who retired last year after 37 years, while the town searches for a permanent successor.