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Recovery plan sets aggressive agenda for CTA

January 20, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A recovery plan for the Chambersburg Transit Authority commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation estimates the accumulated debt of the authority at between $800,000 and almost $1.2 million, debts it recommends be paid off over five years.

The report, issued last month by transportation consultant William S. Parkin, also recommends hiring a private contractor to run the system, "preferably one with bus experience such as a local charter or school bus operator."

The report calls for the resignations of the board of directors, with participating municipalities appointing new members or reappointing those who resigned.

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The report traces the bus system's problems to a period from 1998 to 2000 during which annual expenses rose 91 percent from $252,291 to $482,589. During the same period, federal subsidies tripled to $164,568, but "this increase could not make up for the increased operating costs and decreased revenue," Parkin wrote.

"The operations' impact on the current fiscal crisis stems from the expansion of service in Chambersburg and Waynesboro" in 1998-99, according to the report, with the number of vehicles growing from two to five during that period.

In 2000-01, operating costs rose to $634,000 and increased to $737,000 in 2001-02. In 2003, however, the financial crisis forced the board to reduce the number of daily routes from seven, one of which was in Waynesboro, Pa., to one route serving the Chambersburg area only.

Service was later reduced to three days a week in Chambersburg, but the board in November restored service for two days a week in Waynesboro after a new infusion of government subsidies.

The report noted the authority received about $375,000 in federal capital funds earmarked for buses and architectural and engineering services for an office and maintenance facility that was never built. The authority did get two buses, but never paid for them or the architectural services and used another $146,000 in Federal Transit Administration capital funds for operational costs.

Parkin's report stated the authority will not have to repay the $229,000 to the federal government for the buses and services if it pays the company that sold it the buses and the two architectural firms. The misapplied $146,000, however, will have to be repaid.

The report also lists about $300,000 in state subsidies that need to be repaid, $79,000 in other operating bills as of May 2003, $17,000 in taxes, a $115,000 bank loan, a $25,000 loan from Greene Township and $22,000 in fuel it has received from Chambersburg. A $10,000 personal loan from an employee has been repaid, according to the report.

The five-year recovery plan envisions the authority having an operational budget of approximately $236,000 a year. The total budget would be about $452,000 the first year, declining to $384,000 in the fifth year.

The report identified potential federal, state and local subsidies and revenue sources. The balance above operations costs each year would be used to repay misapplied state and federal subsidies and past bills and loans.

To accomplish that, Parkin's recommendations included the following:

  • Hire a consultant through the department of transportation to assist in contract and subcontract preparations and grant reporting.

  • Hire a local part-time administrator.

  • Hire another consultant through the department's Technical Assistance Program to update the route structure and implement new schedules.

  • Dispose of two or three of the system's eight vehicles.
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