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Bus service gets yes vote from Chambersburg Council

June 15, 2004|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Keeping the buses of the Chambersburg Transit authority rolling through Oct. 1 will not cost much, so the Chambersburg Borough Council Monday night voted unanimously to pay its local match and keep the authority in business past June 30.

"If we say no and it goes down, we lose the gas money anyway," Councilman Robert Wareham said when it was suggested the borough could use the gasoline it provides the authority as an in-kind payment.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation last month asked the borough to financially support the authority to give it time to close its books for 2002-03 and 2003-04 and have an external audit conducted.

The Inspector General's Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation also would conduct its report on the finances and operations of the authority during that time, said Borough Manager Eric Oyer.

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William Stead, a retired transportation official who has been working with Oyer on the matter, said the authority also must respond to state and federal audits from 2003 during the next 31/2 months.

"CTA will bear a heavy burden in the process," Oyer said of the required audits. Stead estimated complying with the requests will require hundreds of hours of work by the authority.

Authority President James Jenkins said after the meeting that it does not have the resources to meet the transportation department requirements at this time. Stead suggested Jenkins ask the state for assistance.

The goal of the audits is to determine as closely as possible the debt of the system, Oyer said last week. Estimates of the debt run upward of $1 million, he said last week.

By providing the local match, Oyer said the authority also avoids another $187,000 in state and federal debts because no local matches had been provided for the current year.

The authority serves Chambersburg as well as Greene and Hamilton townships and Waynesboro and Washington Township. Last year, service was cut sharply and the authority now provides bus transportation three days a week in the Chambersburg area and two days a week in Waynesboro.

Based on figures provided by the authority, Oyer said the local match from the five municipalities is about $2,800. He said officials in Waynesboro and the other townships will recommend those municipalities also approve the plan.

Had the borough not taken the action Monday, the authority would have been forced to shut down at the end of the month.

Before the vote, Jenkins asked that Council President William McLaughlin recuse himself because he has been a vocal critic of the authority and served on the authority board "when a lot of these issues concerning CTA arose."

"I have real trouble with blame shifting," Councilwoman Sharon Bigler said. "CTA was in real trouble before Mr. McLaughlin was on the board of directors."

Jenkins said he is leaving the board of directors at the end of the month. Wade Burkholder, another member of the board, said a new president may be chosen at the authority's Monday, June 21, meeting.

"They didn't really win anything," Ray Gaver of Chambersburg said after the meeting. "All they're doing is propping it up for another three months," he said.

"If they shut it down, I'm out of luck completely, except for this," Gaver said, indicating his wheelchair.

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