Taxi Wars

Frank Timson just wants to operate his business in peace.

Since starting Ontario Taxi almost two years ago, Timson says there hasn’t been a month that’s gone by without having to overcome some form of harassment or vandalism.

He said he fears for life, but more importantly his family’s. Harassing phone calls, even the occasional death threat are something of the norm, he said. When he isn’t trying to protect his house and vehicles from burglary and other criminal mischief, he’s out on the road picking up residents and college kids, where he says he still isn’t safe. Timson said there have been numerous occasions where his vehicle has been attempted to be run off the road. Despite contacting police "1,800 times," as he likes to say, since opening up business, he said it has gotten him nowhere; he is still victim to the dangerous antics.

"Things have been happening to me since day one," Timson said. "I’m just sick of it."

Timson said he knows who is behind all of attempts at harming him and his business. He says it is his old employer, B’s Taxi, who is trying to force him to pack it up, something that B’s owner Brian Savage feverishly denies. After a nasty divorce from the company almost three years ago, Timson claims they are trying to ruin him for starting a business in direct competition with them.

He isn’t the only person in Oswego’s taxi business who has had problems over some of the competition. Bob Mills, who operates during the day-time as Lone Wolf Taxi, has said he has been on the road when B’s Taxi drivers try to play chicken with him, essentially trying to get him to hit their vehicles. Walter "Jack" Savage, brother and former business partner of B’s owner Brian, is carless after having his car seized by authorities when it turned up to be registered illegally, something he attributes to getting the car from Brian. The car is now in police custody, and Jack has recently joined forces with Timson, who himself has temporarily lost his own taxi license due to an altercation with associates from B’s Taxi.

Despite continuous effort from city police to try to intervene and mediate between companies, the clashes and arguments between cab companies has continued over the years in what can simply be described as one thing.

A taxi war in Oswego.

Setting course for collision

After the fall of Zeller’s taxi, then Oswego’s largest taxi company, Jack and Brian Savage decided to create J&B Taxi, which would later be known as just B’s Taxi. It soon became the top taxi company in town.

During 2006, the two hired a man named Frank Timson as a driver. Timson only stayed with the company for around seven months and ended up leaving the company on bad terms with the Savage family. Timson chose to become a competitor, and started Ontario Taxi.

The Savage brothers stayed together until early 2009, when Jack and Brian had a falling out. After an argument with Brian, Jack decided to go into business by himself.

After a falling out in early 2009, Jack left B’s to start a solo taxi company. Soon after, Jack found his car to be illegally registered, and it was seized by law enforcement. While the circumstances surrounding the car remain unclear, Jack remains adament the car came from B’s. Police are currently investigating the incident.

Without a vehicle, Jack decided to go into business with Frank Timson, who is currently suffering from a license suspension following an altercation with the Savage family at the B’s office on East Second Street. Timson was charged with public lewdness during the skirmish. Jack currently drives Ontario Taxi, while Timson remains home, working on a way to get back on the road.

"The charges against me are false," Timson declared. "They should be dropped and I’ll hopefully be back on the road helping [Jack]."

The incident caused greater divide between the Savage brothers, with Jack working for a rival company for a person who has already been alienated from the rest of the B’s family.

"We couldn’t deal with Jack when he was with us," Brian’s wife Theresa, who helps run the business, said. "These two are blood brothers. So what do you expect now? Now he is with Brian’s competition and he don’t stop."

Tensions start to accelerate

In the past two years, B’s Taxi and/or Ontario Taxi associates have been involved in numerous skirmishes in the city of Oswego. Those incidents include allegations on both sides of stalking, larceny, and trespassing. Both sides also make claims that the other is guilty of scamming college students by overcharging, overcrowding cabs, and cruising the streets to solicit rides, all of which is illegal. But there have also been more serious allegations that have surfaced, including aggravated harassment and even assault.

One of those incidents, which occurred December 2008, involved Oswego State sophomore Colleen McCready. McCready was with a group of friends being picked up by a B’s Taxi at Taildraggers Bar to go home. McCready said that after paying the $2 dollar fare while getting in the car, the driver asked again for them to pay just a few blocks down the road when dropping off passengers on West Schuyler Street. A verbal argument ensued until the driver, Louis Lackey, kicked the girls out of the car.

McCready said that Lackey then called more B’s Taxi associates over to the area, and that they surrounded the girls and started yelling at them. According to the police report, as officers arrived they saw approximately four taxis disperse from the area.

When police got on the scene, they found McCready with a bloody nose.

"One thing led to another, and I don’t know how it happened but [Lackey] punched me in the face," McCready said.

McCready initially refused medical treatment. She also declined to press charges.

Lackey has since been let go from B’s. He now has his own taxi company, Bumblebee’s Taxi, but has since had his license temporarily suspended.

Bob Mills, owner of Lone Wolf Taxi, has also had his fair share of problems with B’s Taxi as well. Mills, who operates during the morning and afternoon, claims he has been victim to hijinks that B’s drivers try to pull on the road. He said there were numerous instances where B’s drivers would speed in front of him and pump the brakes in an attempt to get him to rear-end them.

"There is a problem," Mills said. "This is a major problem. It’s gotta come to a head sometime. There is no doubt in my mind."

Mills, who operates by himself with only one car, said he thinks the antics are retribution for helping Timson when he was staring Ontario Taxi in 2007. He said he hasn’t had problems with them in the last six months, ever since he confronted Brian about the prior incidents.

"It’s a big sandbox and it’s all about who will bury the most sand on the other person," Mills said. "They are just stupid kid games."

There have also been complaints from out of town taxi’s having problems with B’s when dropping off customers in the city. Dennis Miller, owner of Fulton Taxi, said he remembers incidents where B’s drivers have followed him around when dropping off customers, as well as screaming at him to get out of the city. He said that B’s has also called Fulton Taxi dispatchers and warned them to stay out of Oswego.

"I don’t do business in Oswego, but customers have a right to call any taxi they want to pick them up and take them out of the city," Miller said. "Some choose us because they don’t want to take the ones in the city. B’s would harass the drivers and have cabs following us around.

Miller said that after contacting police around three months ago, he hasn’t had any more problems with B’s since. He said he’s aware of the current situation surrounding B’s and Ontario, and that he would rather not try to be sucked into it.

"I didn’t get into argument with him. I just handled it the legal way. I didn’t want to battle. I made the phone call to police and that seemed to take care of it."

Putting the brakes on the taxi calamity

The Savages said they have heard all the rumors about what allegedly do. Unlike Timson, they have tried to deal with them internally and have tried to restrain themselves from dishing back dirt. But, they admit, it’s starting to take a toll on them.

"We’ve heard the rumors," Brian said. "That we’ve blew him off [the road], we threw nails in his driveway, we vandalized his house, we went into his house and beat him up with several other people. Wouldn’t we be arrested for something like this?"

According to Brian, it’s obvious why the battle between the taxi companies has been raging: revenge.

"We have some disgruntled ex-employees, that’s all it comes down to," he said.

Timson has been no angel himself during the ongoing disputes between taxi companies. He has been arrested twice during the past two years over incidents involving the Savage family, including the latest in which City Police suspended his taxi license.

Brian and family also said they have been hampered by mischief from Timson and Jack, which includes Savages waking up to find their vehicles’ tires slashed. They have created a coded system to tell drivers where to pick up kids so that other companies won’t hear the call and try to steal potential customers, which Brian said happens frequently.

Between trying to settle disputes quarrels on the road and also at the cabs’ respective headquarters, City Police have made it clear they have reached their boiling point with regard to the constant bickering between taxis.

"I still can’t really fathom why they can’t get along," said one high-ranking police official who chose to remain anonymous. "It seems to be ignorance, plain and simple. We just have ignorant drivers who work for these companies and they are the ones who cause problems."

"If we can root out the ones causing these problems we can fix this. It comes down to an argument by two people, and other people are getting sucked into it. Why people are choosing to get suckedinto this I don’t understand it."

Police are currently undergoing an investigation into one of the companies, and while the official wouldn’t exactly say which taxi it involved, he said that "when the axe falls, it won’t be a kind one."

"We have one company that loves to pick on the other companies until they do something stupid," the official said. "They push them to the point that they go over the edge. It’s unfortunate."

"Before this is over and done with, someone will be arrested."

The Oswego County Sherriff’s Office and University Police have not been as tied up as City Police regarding the taxi squabbles. University Police have recorded two incidents this year, both involving complaints from Ontario Taxi, and the Sheriff’s Office have been alerted of two incidents, both involving Timson.

"We tell people what’s going on and they look like we are nuts," Timson’s wife Chris said. "It’s truly hard to believe this much stuff has happened and no one is arrested."

Salvaging peace

Timson says he doesn’t sleep too much these days. He says he doesn’t know how much more of this he can withstand.

"I hate what I’ve become," Timson said. "I’m like this all the time. I’m up all night babysitting that van so nothing happens to it so we have something to drive the next morning. This is a joke and it’s starting to get to me."

His wife, Chris, says that she has had enough too. She says she has been victim to the harassment on numerous occasions, and that if her and Frank could leave the taxi business, she would do it in a heartbeat. But too much has already been invested in Ontario Taxi, and right now, it’s all the Timsons really have.

"If we were able to leave we definitely would," Chris said. "Everything we have is invested in this company. If we walk away from it we would be walking away with a huge amount of debt. But I would love to walk away because I have had it."

Down the street, Theresa Savage, who helps Brian operate B’s, unknowingly echoed the same sentiment.

"He doesn’t stop, and it’s always something. It’s aggravating. It makes you want to give up your business and say the hell with it."

While the amount of legal problems between both companies continues to rack up, the notion of forming peace between the competitors is one that all sides have almost completely ruled out. Despite all parties agreeing that there is enough business in the city and on campus for all of them to be able to thrive off of, the tone from all involved when asked about peace clearly indicates that the prospect of reaching an accord seems to have hailed the last taxi out of town.

"They know it’s bullshit. The city already told me they have had it," Brian said. "It’s all petty shit, its shit that children do. Say what you want, do what you want, I’m going to continue running business like I do, and that’s the bottom line."

"Ever since Frank left (B’s), they have been harassing him," Jack said. "It’s all about the competition, it’s all about the money."