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City of Augusta says transit savings did not materialize

Officials considering firm that had success in Athens

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 5:14 PM
Last updated Wednesday, July 3, 2013 1:36 AM
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Augusta’s first experiment in outsourcing public transit did not create the cost savings promised two years ago by Mobility Transit Services, city officials said Tuesday.

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Passengers board an Augusta Public Transit bus at Kmart on Gordon Highway in Augusta. The Augusta Commission is reviewing a new offer from a transit company, McDonald Transit, to replace the troubled Mobility Transit, with whom the city is in litigation.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Passengers board an Augusta Public Transit bus at Kmart on Gordon Highway in Augusta. The Augusta Commission is reviewing a new offer from a transit company, McDonald Transit, to replace the troubled Mobility Transit, with whom the city is in litigation.

Never a money-maker, the city bus and Richmond Transit services cost the city about $5 million a year, and 2012 was no exception, city financial analyst Susan Kain told Augusta Commission members Tuesday.

The city paid $3.96 million to Mobility during the year, but related transit expenses, such as diesel, brought the city’s cost much higher.

Kain said total transit expenses for 2012 ran about $5.03 million.

Mobility could not be reached for comment. An e-mail to its operations manager and interim general manager, David Jones, was returned, marked undeliverable.

According to city officials, Mobility disputes the city’s figures.

“We’ve asked how they arrived at their numbers,” Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said. “What they told us was it was the difference between their bid and the amount they billed us. In my opinion, it was not the true savings amount.”

Another private contractor – McDonald Transit Services of Fort Worth, Texas – stands ready to take on Augusta Public Transit when Mobility’s agreement runs out July 31.

McDonald, the bidder chosen by a selection committee, proposes a maximum cost of $4.4 million for transit in its first year, $4.5 million its second year and $4.7 million its third year, Kain said.

The firm is willing to keep Mobility drivers and maintenance staffers, many of them former city employees, in the transition, Deputy Administrator Tameka Allen said.

City Administrator Fred Russell said that if the commission doesn’t approve a contract with McDonald, the city will implement an “emergency plan” to continue transit services after July 31.

The city remains in court-ordered mediation with Mobility, which filed suit alleging various open meetings act and procurement violations after Augusta terminated its contract.

Restoring a city-run transit service is not a good idea, however, Commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle and Joe Jackson said.

“If anybody thinks it was not a problem before we got where we are, it was a serious problem,” Guilfoyle said.

City Transit Liaison Sharon Dottery said McDonald came highly recommended, especially for its work in Athens-Clarke County.

“I was hoping we would have gotten something like that the first time,” she said.

McDonald worked with Athens Transit for several decades, but the city terminated its management contract with the company about five years ago, according to Athens Transit Director Butch McDuffie.

Unlike Augusta’s transit service contract, Athens had a management contract with McDonald that supplied only McDuffie, while drivers and maintenance staff were government employees. At some point the city chose to hire McDuffie rather than renew the agreement with McDonald, McDuffie said.

The relationship ended amicably, however, and McDuffie said he’d recommend his former employer highly.

“Augusta would be well-served to hire McDonald Transit,” he said.

Commissioner Mary Davis said she had heard good things about McDonald’s work in Athens.

“I just don’t want us to be doing the same thing we’ve been doing,” she said.

The four commissioners who attended Tuesday’s work session appeared in agreement about contracting with McDonald, but they might have an uphill battle convincing some of their colleagues.

“The other side wants to bring it back in house,” Jackson said.

Comments (14) Add comment
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Pops
14773
Points
Pops 07/02/13 - 07:37 pm
6
2
Why have the government

responsible for providing transportation for people?

nocnoc
49724
Points
nocnoc 07/02/13 - 07:43 pm
4
1
Another example of Politics at work

Its just $5.# Million we are dumping down the rabbit hole.
For that amount EVERY YEAR, ARC could hire a FLEET of
local Shuttle Service vans that would operate 24/7vehicles
and offer door to door service.

NOT collect a dime and still save $$$$$.

Plus I agree with POPS why is the Government in the Transportation Business? It only serves a narrow group of residents, not the whole county.

An no I would not like to see it expanded either to cover ALL of ARC.

Pops
14773
Points
Pops 07/02/13 - 07:49 pm
3
0
I can only imagine

how efficient and honestly the bus system is ran.

404Law
226
Points
404Law 07/02/13 - 08:04 pm
3
1
Dirty work...

Where's Joe Bowles and the gang of six now? They pushed hard for privatization, purportedly to save taxpayer dollars.

I wish the AC would allow Susan to develop fully these stories. Context is really important. The readers deserve to know the progression of events. The gang of six really did us in, big time. The worst has yet to come. You'll see.

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 07/03/13 - 07:22 am
3
1
Gang of 6

404, If you understood how Government accounting works you would see the savings. The 5.03 amount includes Federal Funds for new equipment. The saving are in personnell costs.
Whenever your ready to review them please give me a call (706)825-6894. I'm sure you won;t want to see the facts

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 07/03/13 - 07:25 am
3
0
Procurement

404, How did Gerri Sams and Heyward Johnson recommend Mobility in the first place. I fought for Velusia transit because of there proposal to cut expenses down 70% greater than Mobility.
But Procurement recommends Mobility - Then to later find out this company was created solely to bid on the Augusta contract.
Seems pretty suspicous to me, what do you say?

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 07/03/13 - 07:28 am
2
0
Gov't Accounting

404, In Gov't accounting you need to segregate Funds, The 5.03 includes Federqal funds for Equipment. So comparing Total costs from year to year never will give you a comparison. You must go to the General fund and look at the savings. @ 20% in salaries.
When you want to have an open an HONEST discussion on the facts call me at 706-825-6894. I can't wait to hear from you

Pops
14773
Points
Pops 07/03/13 - 08:27 am
2
0
Who is "the other side"?

“The other side wants to bring it back in house,” Jackson said.

Just get the government out of the business. They don't operate taxi services, do they?

corgimom
38775
Points
corgimom 07/03/13 - 11:05 am
2
0
Honestly, every Augusta

Honestly, every Augusta Commission for the last 30+ years would believe anything and everything. I wish they would get someone in there that actually knew how to run a municipality, this "home-grown" management is a huge reason why Augusta is in the mess that it's in.

Hire a qualified city manager for a change, you know? Get some people in there that knows what they are doing, and won't fall for every snake-oil vendor that comes along.

Sweet son
11770
Points
Sweet son 07/03/13 - 12:31 pm
3
0
Sooner or later the procurement dept is going

to get caught up in something that probably won't be pretty!

dichotomy
37652
Points
dichotomy 07/03/13 - 01:42 pm
4
0
We are we paying for it to

We are we paying for it to begin with? It's not my job to provide subsidized transportation to anyone. Nobody provides me squat that I don't pay for. Let the contractors bid to provide the service based on what they would charge the passengers to run all the scheduled routes and the one that will provide the service for the lowest cost to the riders wins the contract. They can keep everything the make. If they provide clean buses that run on time then their ridership will increase and they will make more money. There is no incentive for quality service in any government contract which is why we have miserable bus service. Include a penalty and escape clause in case they don't fulfill their end. Cost to the taxpayer....ZERO. Cost to the riders.....a fair price for a provided service paid for by the PEOPLE WHO USE THE SERVICE. If the contractor cannot at least break even then that just proves the point that the taxpayers are being screwed by being forced to subsidize a WAY under used service.....just like we are being screwed by being forced to subsidize "downtown".

If the commissioners do not see a problem with charging me TWICE what it costs to provide garbage service, they should not have a problem with charging bus riders what it costs to run the bus service. I'm damned tired of the double standards in this county. If fact, they can charge the bus riders TWICE what it costs to run the bus service and make a tidy profit like they do on the garbage service.

faithson
5531
Points
faithson 07/03/13 - 02:00 pm
1
1
gotta love the arm chair quarterbacking...

You want a change... run for office, win and do your thing. I do know ole Joe always had 'cost' in mind when he made decisions, I also know he was working with a bunch downtown who at times did not have the best interests of the people in mind. We need affordable mass transit for community, now how we get there should be in the hands of ept decision makers, an attribute lacking at the marble palace.

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 07/03/13 - 02:01 pm
3
0
quit blaming on fuel cost

Fuel costs haven't changed that much. It has gone up and down but averaged about the same. I pay more when fuel prices go up and less when they go down. Raise and lower the fares accordingly. Make them pay the difference, not us tax payers.

soapy_725
44151
Points
soapy_725 07/03/13 - 03:03 pm
0
0
You can negotiate fuel contracts. One year or five years.
Unpublished

You can negotiate fuel contracts. One year or five years.

soapy_725
44151
Points
soapy_725 07/03/13 - 03:04 pm
0
0
Outsourcing without politico micro mangers saves money.
Unpublished

But who in The ARC of No Covenant wants to save money.

soapy_725
44151
Points
soapy_725 07/03/13 - 03:05 pm
1
0
Who on The ARC of No Covenant wants to save money.
Unpublished

Who on The ARC of No Covenant wants to save money.

Pops
14773
Points
Pops 07/03/13 - 07:36 pm
1
0
Who says

"We need affordable mass transit for community".

By affordable you really mean "almost free" transit. Is that because "the community" is owed something?????

Gibs me dat is what this is all about.

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