Commission considering PATS funding as budget nears

Published 3:00 am Friday, July 20, 2018

The Pike County commission is seeking more information on the Pike Area Transit System (PATS) after a new, bigger budget was presented at the July 10 meeting.

Donta Frazier, director of the transportation program, came before the commission seeking for their approval of a budget that would include a match of nearly $107,000 from the county government for the upcoming fiscal year.

Frazier said the budget has already been approved by state and federal agencies that contribute the bulk of the funding for the program, which offers rides to county citizens in need of transportation.

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The City of Troy, the sponsoring governing body, has already approved their part of the budget. The City of Brundidge also contributes a small portion of the funding.

The split of the locally contributed funding is nearly even between Troy and Pike County, based on population.

The outline of the proposed FYE 2019 budget outlines approximately $111,000 in expenditures compared to $107,000 for Pike County.

Now commissioners are looking deeper into the program to see how many of the program’s riders are from city-to-county, county-to-city and county-to-county and whether there are any ways to reduce the local funding.

“When you’re asking for $107,000 out of a $6 million general fund, that’s a lot of money,” said Commissioner Chad Copeland, District 4. “ … I need every piece of information I can to give an informed opinion.”

This is not the first time the commission has questioned whether they should continue funding the program that began in 2008.

Last year the commission brought up concerns about the program as they work to open up revenue to fix local roads, which have not had any local funding allocated to their repairs until the commission last year came up with a 24-month plan to direct money to some of the county’s roughest drives.

The commission ultimately came to an agreement to fund their part of the program for another 12 months and use that time to do further research to determine whether or not to continue participation in the program.

County and city officials plan to discuss¬ the budget once Frazier is able to compile information about the program.

One of the issues brought up at the meeting was the number of riders using the service.

Copeland discussed the program having just 39 daily riders last year, although over 100 more riders also made intermittent use of the transit system as well. He also asked Frazier about the number of people using the system as a ride to work, including a group that uses the transportation to ride to a specific workplace.

“Have we approached any of these businesses and told them we seem to be subsidizing their employees to come to work?” Copeland asked.

Frazier said that the grants are only provided if the program is used to allow residents to go wherever they request to go and that it cannot be limited.

Frazier said federal and state authorities have already approved to contribute their portion of the funding if the budget is approved, but Frazier said the county still has the authority to decide whether to move ahead with the budget as proposed.

The total budget for the program totals nearly $775,000. The program is available to all residents in Pike County with fares varying based on mileage.

Trips between 0 and 9 miles (one-way) are $2, between 10 and 20 miles (one-way) are $3, between 21-30 miles (one-way) are $4, and trips over 30 miles will be negotiated by the planner. Any additional stops will be $1. There is no charge for children under 10 years of age. Monthly passes are available for $70 or $60 for Seniors ages 60 and over.

Rides must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. Scheduling calls can be made between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 334-674-2451 for riders in the Troy area and 888-PIKE-VAN for riders outside the city.

All passengers from health care facilities, nursing homes and assisted living residences are required to be accompanied by an assistant.  There is no charge for the assistant, with regular charges for the passenger.

The vans are on the roads from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The commission must decide on their upcoming budget prior to October 1.