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Judge denies Mobility request to stop city action

Texas firm likely to win bid as next provider

Monday, July 1, 2013 8:50 PM
Last updated Tuesday, July 2, 2013 12:36 PM
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Score one for the city of Augusta in ongoing contract litigation with bus operator Mobility Transit.

U.S. District Judge J. Randal Hall denied Mobility’s request for an emergency injunction stopping the city from hiring a replacement for Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Mobility, which has run Augusta Public Transit since August 2011.

In his order, filed Saturday, Hall said Mobility missed a five-day deadline to appeal the city procurement department’s denial of its earlier protest, casting doubt on the likelihood of the company’s winning on the merits of its protest.

Mobility also failed to show it will suffer irreparable harm without the injunction, Hall wrote.

“Even if Mobility eventually prevails on the merits and the court determines that the city’s termination of the agreement was invalid,” he said, the city “would presumably be liable to Mobility for breach of contract.”

Augusta’s first effort to outsource public transit has been rocky from the start, and last year the city warned the firm about making late payments to vendors and other contract issues.

In recent court filings, Mobility President Cullan Meathe detailed the firm’s ownership: Sixty percent is held by Peninsula Transportation Group LLC, a Florida taxicab company owned by the Jeane A. Meathe Irrevocable Trust.

Kevin Adams of Knoxville, Tenn., who represented the company as one he founded during initial contract negotiations, is listed by Meathe as holding a 30 percent membership interest in the company, while Anthony Patenella of Loudon, Tenn., holds a 10 percent membership interest.

As mediation continues, Augusta commissioners who aren’t vacationing this week have an opportunity to hear Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen’s presentation Tuesday on McDonald Transit, a city committee’s recommendation for a new provider.

McDonald, based in Fort Worth, Texas, has contracted with the Charlotte, N.C., Area Transit System for about a decade, according to spokesperson Jean Leier, a spokesperson for the Charlotte system.

Under a contract set to expire in February, McDonald has provided three managers to oversee day-to-day bus service, maintenance and a staff of 850, Leier said. McDonald has also been responsible for negotiating with both bus operator and maintenance collective bargaining units, she said.

Augusta’s selection committee gave McDonald 95 out of a possible 100 points in its review, scoring the firm highest of four firms ranked in all areas except proposed cost per revenue hour and presentation.

City transit liaison Sharon Dottery wrote that under McDonald’s cost proposal, the city “will realize a cost savings over the three years.”

The transit contract is worth at least $4 million annually, according to court filings.

“They were the best of the bunch,” City Administrator Fred Russell said of McDonald.

Plus, the city’s contract with Mobility is set to expire July 31, he said.

If no new bus provider is hired, Russell said the city “had plans to operate it on an emergency basis. But it’s sure not the preferred way to do it.”

At a 10 a.m. workshop requested by Mayor Deke Copenhaver, commissioners can hear Allen’s presentation on the potential bid award.

Several said they already had plans Tuesday when the city clerk notified them Sunday of the called meeting.

Commissioner Marion Williams, who took office in January, was angry about the called meeting.

“This should have been handled a year-and-a-half ago,” Williams said. “They’re going to say it’s crunch time and it’s time to do it. They’re not going to jerk my chain to have me show up.”

Commissioner Joe Jackson said it was time for the city to “fish or cut bait” with a transit provider, and wants to maintain a privately run service despite having no knowledge of how much outsourcing the service to Mobility may or may not have saved the city.

“Nobody knows,” Jackson said. “You can’t get an honest answer, and that’s what’s so disgusting.”

Commissioner Bill Fennoy said he “just want(s) them to have something in place” when Mobility’s contract terminates.

Russell said he hopes to get commission approval of McDonald on July 8.


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