County expresses concerns with ATA|
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
By Wendy Lynn Brion Staff Writer
During yesterday's work session of the Clearfield County Commissioners, the commissioners discussed some issues they are having with the Area Transportation Authority, which supplies public transportation to six counties.
Clearfield County contracts with ATA under Act 44 for most mass transit in the county, except for DuBois and surrounding areas which are contracted with DuFAST.
The contract calls for a local match, and for ATA that appropriation for 2013 was $113,019, or 47.6 percent of all the local matches from the six counties.
Clearfield County also pays a local match of $14,364 to DuFAST, which is the same that is paid by DuBois and Sandy Township, with Falls Creek also paying a small share.
Clearfield County has three appointed representatives to the governing board of ATA: Kristen Vida, Anthony Vilione and Ernest Carns.
Commissioner Chairwoman Joan Robinson McMillen said the commissioners have had concerns about ATA for several years, especially in regard to getting information from the authority and transparency.
Robinson explained that the commissioners also understand the state Department of Transportation has concerns with ATA.
Recently the commissioners were notified that the ATA board would be voting on the 2013-14 budget and the commissioners requested copies and were told there was a hold up with PennDOT.
Last week, the day before the vote, McMillen said they called again and were told that there was not a copy available but they would still vote on it, and McMillen received a two-page summary of assets and liabilities.
McMillen and Commissioner John Sobel attended the meeting in Johnsonburg the following day and made a few discoveries.
First, Vida has been asking for board packets to be provided prior to meetings for review and has been told that will not happen and board members are expected to vote on items without having time to review them.
Vida also asked to see a copy of the budget prior to the vote but was not given one. She asked several questions but did not get answers.
Ultimately, McMillen said, everyone on the board voted to approve the budget except for Vida.
She said she also asked some questions and either did not receive answers or the answers were not direct. She said she asked for a breakdown of salaried employees and was told it was in a different budget and was promised a copy. She followed up with an e-mail and received no response. "That's not really best service," she remarked.
"We do have some concerns," McMillen said, and added the commissioners are investigating moving Act 44 funds to DuFAST and having them supply public transportation to the entire county.
Sobel added that the budget for ATA was $9,638,878 and it was approved without a document in front of the board members. He said they were told it was the commonwealth's fault and that everything is fine, don't worry about it. "We were told we wouldn't understand," Sobel said.
Sobel added that PennDOT has also expressed satisfaction with DuFAST, noting they have demonstrated sound fiscal management and are efficiently run and locally run.
Commissioner Mark McCracken echoed the other commissioners about the need for transparency from ATA and said there is a lot of state and federal money that goes into the authority as well as local money and a detailed budget should not only have been given to the board members but made available to the public as well.
Sobel added that, under the Sunshine Act, there is to be a public comment time for municipal meetings and there is not one included in the agenda of the ATA board meetings. He said it is reflective of an organization used to not being accountable.
The commissioners confirmed that Solicitor Kim Kesner is looking into the matter. Kesner said he will look into past transactions and will make a request of ATA for information, including the minutes from the last meeting.
McMillen assured residents that there will not be a sudden change in public transportation or a break in service.
In other business:
• the commissioners approved $1,000 of hotel tax discretionary funds to the Curwensville Days Committee.
• a contract for hazardous materials emergency response with Eagle Towing was approved. The contract is for three years.
• a copier lease between the county and Ricoh for the planning and controller's offices was approved. McMillen noted the contract is less than what was budgeted.
• a contract between the county and Mountain View Center Inc. was approved for District Magistrate Jerome Nevling's offices. Nevling has requested some renovations to enhance security at the building, which the landlord approves.
Kesner drew up the contract and rent will be $1,025 per month for year one, $1,100 per month for year two, $1,175 per month for year three, $1,200 per months for year four, $1,325 per month for years five through eight and $1,450 for years nine and 10.
• the commissioners held a 15-minute executive session concerning the offer from Dustin Quigley for the property on Third Street, which used to house The Angry Bean/Ethan's Café and Evans Photography. The commissioners are still doing research and will revisit the matter at the next meeting.
The next commissioners meeting has been moved to June 12 at 10 a.m.