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Officials: Cuts aimed at keeping transit buses on the roads

February 26, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Appeals for more money by the communities it serves, reduced routes and this week's elimination of some drivers and cuts in insurance premiums are all part of the effort to get the Chambersburg Transit authority out of the red, its executive director said Tuesday.

Outgoing Director Eva McKula said the deficit-plagued public bus company is doing its best to stay afloat as it tries to work its way out of a $300,000 debt.

Since last fall, operating cuts and streamlining of operations have reduced the debt to around $250,000, McKula said.

The heavily subsidized buses serve riders in Chambersburg, Waynesboro. Pa., and Washington Township, Pa. Most of the riders are senior citizens, who ride for free.

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The move this week by the authority's board of directors to eliminate two full-time driver positions, three part-time and three occasional driver positions was the most severe yet to keep the system operating.

One of the full-time positions was given up voluntarily by a driver who wanted to work part time, McKula said.

The cuts will leave the authority with three full-time, four part-time and three occasional drivers. Occasional drivers are those on call or who drive for special trips, McKula said.

Fewer drivers are needed since the authority cut the number of routes in half, McKula said. The Waynesboro-area runs were cut from two to one and Chambersburg has been reduced to two runs.

McKula said further route cuts are being considered, including reducing the Waynesboro area runs to three days a week and eliminating the Saturday run in Chambersburg.

In addition, employees will have to pay for half of their medical insurance premiums beginning March 15. The authority has been paying the full cost.

In another move, the board this week decided to replace McKula with two part-timers, including an administrator to handle the business end, apply for grants and run the office, and a transportation director who will be responsible for running and maintaining its fleet of seven buses.

McKula resigned in December but agreed to stay on until her replacement was hired.

James Jenkins, chairman of the authority's board of directors, said the part-time positions will be tried for 90 days.

"If it doesn't work out, it will be easier to turn two positions back into one than one into two," he said.

Both positions will pay around $20,000 a year. Since both jobs will be part time, the authority won't be obligated to pay health insurance and other benefits, Jenkins said.

"We're making these cuts to stay afloat," he said. "We did a lot of bleeding last night (Monday) and we had to cut where we didn't want to, but if we can hold out until the end of the fiscal year, June 30, we'll be in a better position."

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