The private company that took over management of Augusta Public Transit last year is standing firm and defending itself against allegations in the city’s May 7 “cure notice,” which ordered the company to fix several issues or risk losing its contract.
In a response Wednesday obtained by The Augusta Chronicle, Mobility Transit Services LLC blames some of the problems on other parties, including the city itself, and denies others but does acknowledge a few errors.
Late bill payments to Georgia Power, for instance, resulted after the city switched its transit power accounts to Mobility and some of the accounts “fell through the cracks and were not transferred,” said the letter from Mobility’s Augusta attorney, Beth McLeod.
Mobility attributes another late-payment issue to billing irregularities on the part of Executive Janitorial, which was hired to clean the buses.
It says those irregularities include Executive’s “hounding” for early payment because the company was “in dire need of the money to cover payroll.”
Mobility also asserts that issues with monthly reporting of drug testing, bus accidents and equal employment opportunity concerns mentioned in the May 7 notice were remedied by the time the notice was sent.
In response to the city’s allegation that it did not address the concerns of a disabled rider, Mobility said that the rider raised different concerns with the company from what he did in a subsequent communication with the city’s EEO office and that he canceled two meetings arranged with Mobility General Manager Mike Rosson.
Augusta City Manager Fred Russell said he had reviewed the response but has not decided what to recommend to the Augusta Commission.
“I think they responded to each of our concerns and pointed out some things that they’ve done to correct them,” Russell said. “The question is, is that good enough at this point?”
Commissioners on either side of the bus-privatization issue had differing opinions about Mobility’s response.
“They seemed to have a lot of answers in there. They seem reasonable to me,” said Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who supported the move to Mobility and has criticized the city’s management of the bus service, which it purchased from a private operator decades ago.
Commissioner Bill Lockett, a critic of outsourcing bus service last year, was not persuaded by the firm’s response and suggested that the city run a credit report on the company.
“I saw lots of falsities, especially in reference to their credit,” he said. “Two weeks ago, they were going around hastily paying vendors.”
Lockett also questioned the firm’s adherence to the city’s personnel policies and labor laws.
“If (their) information is correct, it definitely warrants further investigation by the labor department and federal agencies since we are dealing with federal dollars,” he said.
Much of that federal money, $934,183, is up for approval at a commission committee meeting Tuesday. It would go toward buying three buses that Mobility would operate. The grant requires a 20 percent city match.