Steering committee will oversee PATS concerns

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Representatives from each of the Pike Area Transit System (PATS) program’s contributing agencies — the city of Troy, Pike County and the city of Brundidge — met Wednesday to discuss efficiency concerns.

Pike County Commission Chairman, Homer Wright, voiced concerns over the way he originally “thought” the program would be run and the way in which it is being run today.

During the meeting at Troy City Hall, Wright said he was curious as to why the budgets required to run the PATS program were increasing by almost $10,000 a year since its inception, and also why complaints against the transit system had to be filed with the state and not at the local level.

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“One of the things to come out of this meeting was the mayor’s proposal for a steering committee,” Wright said. “I’m satisfied with the fact that we finally got one.”

The steering committee will be composed of one representative from each contributing agency that will serve the transit system by fielding complaints from customers in each area of service: Brundidge, Troy and Pike County.

Complaints are currently submitted via paperwork that is filled out and sent to the state department of transportation.

With the steering committee in place, Wright said complaints will be able to be handled at the local level instead of getting the state involved.

Wright, during the meeting, said communication was “the key to the whole thing.”

“Nobody ever knew what was going on,” Wright said. “When it comes to ‘details,’ all we get is a statement with insufficient information. We’re paying the majority of the money for the program, so we should get a more detailed statement about what’s going on and how much is being spent on what.”

The projected expenditures for fiscal year 2012 of the PATS operating and administrative budgets show Pike County owing an expected $69,961.80, the city of Troy owing $66,914.81 and the city of Brundidge owing $11,756.91.

Harry Sanders, Pike County administrator, said the increases are significant.

“If our preliminary numbers about this year are correct, then that’s going to be a pretty significant increase coming into the next fiscal year,” Sanders said. “We’re talking about $50,000 up to $69,000. It winds up being around a 40 percent increase.”

Wright and Sanders said the increases have only been attributed to “ambiguous” sources, for example higher gas prices and vehicle maintenance. Part of the problem, they say, goes back to not having “all the details.”

The city of Troy’s transportation director, Donta Frazier, said he was taking the necessary steps to lead the program in a positive direction. Frazier said that one of the possible sources of the budget increases — vehicle maintenance — is an issue he is working hard to fix. “Vehicle maintenance was one of the reasons we had this meeting,” Frazier said. “We’ve had vehicles for a period of time and we’ve tried to cut in our budget as far as keeping up maintenance on the vehicles we already have and not buying new ones.”

Frazier said the vehicle issue needed to be addressed, because, at this point, “it’s almost time to buy new vehicles” and he needed to know which direction he needed to go.

No decision was made during the meeting to purchase new vehicles, however Frazier did say he was interested in looking into modeling the PATS program after another successful transit system.

“We’re looking into getting the route-match system for the PATS program,” Frazier said. “That system would definitely cut down on a lot of money and would be more efficient in getting the information certain agencies may request in a timely manner.”

Frazier said he plans on taking a trip to Dothan to see how the Wiregrass Transit Authority operates.

“Mr. John Sorrell is the director there and he’s a good friend of mine,” Frazier said. “We’ve talked about this before and he’s had this system for two years now. He suggested that this is something we should look at to help our program grow, because it has definitely made his program grow.”