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Transit's financial woes deepen in Franklin County, Pa.

The service has pulled its buses out of Waynesboro and may be out of business by the end of the month,

The service has pulled its buses out of Waynesboro and may be out of business by the end of the month,

March 18, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Public bus service ended in Waynesboro and Washington Township Monday and there are doubts that it will be running in Chambersburg, Pa., by the end of the month, the treasurer of the Chambersburg Transit Authority said Monday.

William McLaughlin, treasurer of the authority's board of directors, said he expects the agency to be out of business by the end of March.

"Only a short miracle can save it now," he said.

The authority, created by the Chambersburg Borough Council in 1991 to set up the heavily subsidized system, has been beset by financial problems in recent years, including a deficit that topped more than $300,000 a few months ago.

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The utility's death knell may have come last week when the Internal Revenue Service notified authority members that CTA owes the government nearly $47,000 in unpaid payroll taxes, McLaughlin said.

"The IRS said it wants its money in a matter of days or weeks and you know what that means," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said Eva McKula, CTA's executive director, whose last day on the payroll was Sunday, decided to pay the bills of the struggling bus company rather than employee withholding taxes to the IRS.

McLaughlin said McKula had an arrangement with IRS officials for the payments. The IRS then decided it wanted its money, he said.

He said the authority's five buses, several of which are fairly new, may have to be sold to pay off the IRS. Any money left could go toward the authority's bills, McLaughlin said.

McKula declined to comment on the agency's finances when reached Monday.

The Chambersburg Borough Council will discuss the fate of the transit authority at a meeting tonight. McKula said she will attend the meeting.

The authority's board of directors held an emergency meeting Thursday in the offices of Thomas Finucane, the authority's attorney, to discuss the IRS payments.

The authority, after the meeting, voted to end service in Waynesboro and Washington Township and cut Chambersburg-area service down to a single 14-stop run similar to the reduced run made on snow emergency days.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation subsidizes the lion's share of the cost of running the buses with state and federal transportation money.

Local governments also contribute.

Senior citizens, which make up most of the passenger base, ride for free.

The authority's work force was down to two employees Monday from the 10 that were on the payroll as recently as last week, McLaughlin said.

McKula resigned as CTA director in December but agreed to stay on until a replacement was hired. Now that that is no longer being considered, McKula said she will volunteer through the end of this week to finish reports due to PennDOT.

The only people who are going to be hurt by taking the buses off the road are those who depend on them, McLaughlin said.

"It's not a high priority for anyone else," he said.

Stanley and Ruth Davis live on North Street in Waynesboro. He's 76; she's 71. Between them, they ride the buses five times a week, Ruth Davis said.

"We are really going to miss it. We ride it to the YMCA, the senior center and to Wayne Heights Mall," she said. She said she knows many senior citizens who use the bus to get to medical appointments.

Those who do can call Franklin County Integrated Transportation in Chambersburg at 1-800-548-5600 and make arrangements for a free ride to medical appointments. The system is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to a voice mail Monday night.

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