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Borough offers hand to transit

November 13, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg Borough Council members renewed their support for the embattled Chambersburg Transit Authority Tuesday, taking measures to help keep the cash-strapped agency up and running.

The council unanimously approved paying the authority $9,000 in cash to support its operations and using $9,000 to reduce the $17,000 debt the CTA owes the borough for fuel.

Last month, the council shot down the authority's request to pay the remaining $18,000 it owed the CTA in its local match for fiscal 2002-03, questioning whether the authority would be able to dig out from under the debt it has accumulated.

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Authority Director Eva McKula presented the board Tuesday night a three-year projection for the authority showing it could break even if it didn't have to pay an outstanding loan.

"Transit authorities are typically not moneymakers," she said.

"If there was no outstanding debt, the program can operate without a deficit," said Borough Manager Eric Oyer, who is helping the authority work out a fiscal plan.

McKula also said the authority has reduced its debt from $307,000 in July to $244,000 this month thanks to grants and local contributions.

"I would say that's a pretty major accomplishment," she said.

Council President Bill McLaughlin, who is also a CTA board member, said he believed the debt could be further cut by the end of the year.

"The last couple of weeks I have been dialing for dollars, calling people who should have an interest in the continued operation of the transit authority," he said.

His calls have yielded a $10,000 donation from Menno Haven Inc., and the promise from another business to pay the costs of new tires for the authority's bus fleet. He also is working with an unnamed source that may give a $75,000 matching grant.

"That would go a long way toward erasing debt," McLaughlin said. "I actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm hopeful to eliminate close to half of the debt by the end of the year."

The board has also formed a long-range planning committee to work on trimming operating costs, including cutting the bus routes in Chambersburg from four to two and in Waynesboro from two to one. That will save about $25,000 a quarter, McKula said.

The debt accumulated over three years, and McKula attributed it to several reasons from rising fuel and insurance costs to lost revenue from fees the former director was wrongly charging businesses to have bus stop signs in front of their facilities.

McLaughlin said situations like that are making it difficult to rebuild the CTA's credibility in the business community and solicit donations.

"I think we owe it to the residents of the borough who use the service to give it every opportunity to survive," he said.

The CTA had to shut down for one day last month because it did not have the funds to make an insurance payment.

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