State, federal officials to huddle on CTA

April 13, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Transit Authority got a reprieve from the Borough Council Monday night, but its fate will depend on how much the state and federal governments want to put into a recovery plan, council President William McLaughlin said.

The council was to have ratified a resolution to officially opt out of the five-year recovery plan commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. That item was pulled from Monday's agenda after the department and the Federal Transportation Administration requested another meeting this Wednesday with borough and authority officials.

Borough Secretary Tanya Mickey said the request from the state and federal transportation authorities is to discuss future operations, debt repayment, local financial participation and whatever steps will be taken after the system ceases to operate by June 30.


"I think that we sent them a message loud and clear and they didn't like it," McLaughlin said during a break in the meeting. If the council changes its mind, that decision "will be based on the willingness to put some additional money from the federal and state governments into the recovery plan," he said.

"I encourage borough council to wrap its arms around the transit authority for those who are in need of public transportation," said James Jenkins, president of the authority's board of directors. He officially offered his resignation effective June 30 at the meeting.

The council was "disingenuous" to the board and "numerous artificial barriers were placed in our path at every turn," Jenkins said without elaborating.

"What are those numerous artificial barriers the borough set up at every turn?" Councilman John Redding said after Jenkins left. "This council, from day one, has been supportive of CTA," he said.

Borough council members concluded, however, that it will take too much local money to keep the bus line operating and retire its debt over five years. Borough Manager Eric Oyer said recently that a local panel looked at figures and concluded the debt may be as high as $1.2 million.

The bus system requires local matches from Chambersburg and the other communities served by the system in order to receive state and federal subsidies. Waynesboro, Pa., and Washington Township officials indicated last month they will not participate in the recovery plan if Chambersburg is not involved.

McLaughlin said the municipalities could end up paying $150,000 or more a year to keep the bus line operating. The system serves Chambersburg three days a week and Waynesboro two days each week and carries about 1,000 riders a month.

"Somebody here in Chambersburg wants us gone," said board member Peg Eyer. "I don't know who and I don't know why," she said. Eyer said she will not join other board members in offering to resign, one of the recommendations of the recovery plan.

The mismanagement of the system began before most of the board's current members were in place, Eyer said. Jenkins said board members have contributed their own money to keep the scaled-back system running.

"It can be saved. One nickel, one quarter and one dime at a time," said Eyer, who has been soliciting donations to pay off money owed to local vendors.

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