SHERIDAN — Despite an apparent consensus among area bar owners that the service is worthwhile, the Sheridan Police Department’s Tipsy Taxi program is struggling to identify needed sources of additional funding.
Chief Richard Adriaens said the situation isn’t yet dire enough to threaten the existence of the program, but organizers are working hard to increase cash flow for the service.
“We’re looking to get more donations and keep it going,” Adriaens said. “This is something that has an immediate positive effect on our community.”
First launched last July, the Tipsy Taxi program offers cab vouchers worth up to $10 to intoxicated persons looking to get home after a night at the bars. The value of the voucher means that for most Sheridan residents, the service is entirely free. During weekend hours when the service is typically called upon the most, Tipsy Taxi employs two vehicles to get customers home safely.
To operate the program, the city of Sheridan partnered last year with local alcohol distributors, Sheridan County Liquor Dealers Association, the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention, Loco Printing and Sheridan Taxi to gather funding and resources.
Each participating establishment made a donation to the fund and many raised additional funds through 50/50 raffles and other such initiatives.
To date, financial donations have totaled over $8,500 with an additional $1,000 going toward printing signs and vouchers.
Currently, however, the service provides an average of 140 rides per month. With each ride costing the service $10, more funding is needed moving forward.
Adriaens said statistics recorded by the police department will go on to prove the program’s effectiveness and could open the door to potential grant funding down the road.
Donations, however, are also essential.
At a press conference Monday, Adriaens pointed to a roughly 24 percent decrease in DUI arrests between July and December 2012 when compared to that same period in 2011 as evidence that Tipsy Taxi works.
“This has been a huge asset to us,” he said.
Representatives of the Sheridan County Liquor Dealers Association were also on hand to vouch for the effectiveness of the program.
The organization’s president and secretary said that prior to its implementation, many area bar owners were forced to pay for cab rides out of their own pockets if their customers clearly weren’t able to drive home safely.
SPD Administrative Services Manager Jenifer Shassetz said the department is working hard to increase awareness of the Tipsy Taxi program in the hopes that more definitive statistics and an increase in donations could one day lead to the program becoming solvent and entirely independent from government funds.
Organizers involved with the program typically meet once a month to discuss issues and potential solutions related to the initiative.
“It’s very productive to keep the conversation open,” Shassetz said. “We can always improve the program.”
Adriaens went on to praise all involved with the implementation of the program, saying its existence is due in no small part to the close-knit nature of the community.
“It only takes four or five people to get together and make something happen, and this is a perfect example of that,” he said.
Liquor distributors interested in helping support the program can do so by contacting the Sheridan Police Department. Donations from private citizens are also welcome.