Carroll Transit wins one out of three on pleas for county's help

January 28, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Yes, no and maybe are the answers so far to three requests the Carroll Transit System has made to the county commissioners.

Yes, the ailing nonprofit Carroll Transit may begin using county mechanics to maintain its fleet of vans, which could save $15,000 of the amount paid annually to a private company for the service.

But no, Carroll Transit van drivers may not use county gasoline pumps after hours and will have to buy some gas at market rates.

The verdict is still out on whether the commissioners will lend Carroll Transit $10,000 to buy computer software. The software could save money through more efficient billing and planning of routes.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he and his two colleagues did not take a vote, but told the county attorney to go ahead and draft the maintenance agreement after a closed meeting Monday.

The commissioners had been awaiting a legal opinion from the state Mass Transit Administration, which gave its blessing to the maintenance agreement late last week, Mr. Lippy said.

He said that the software proposal -- and whether there is a less expensive option -- is being investigated. Although Carroll Transit has asked for a loan, Mr. Lippy said, he is not sure the agency would be able to repay it.

Carroll Transit's executive board last week set a Monday deadline to decide whether to keep operating, close or radically reduce service. The directors will meet that night, and their decision will largely be based on what the county will agree to do.

Linda Boyer, the system's executive director, said that the maintenance agreement with the county will certainly help, but that Carroll Transit will need other major changes in the long run.

"We are not getting paid [enough] to transport the clients we're transporting," Ms. Boyer said.

The county and Carroll Transit have an implied contract for the system to provide reduced fares for senior citizens, the handicapped and low-income people.

Ms. Boyer said she hoped a summit planned for later this winter would gather mayors, county officials and private agencies that provide or need transportation.

Ms. Boyer's goal for the summit is to let these officials know how Carroll Transit operates and why it needs more money.

The agency will consider fare increases, but those would have to be approved by the state Public Service Commission.

The agency faces a potential $70,000 deficit by June 30. The maintenance agreement will offset some of that, Ms. Boyer said.

She said she has not calculated how much could be saved if drivers had access to the county pumps after 5 p.m. and on holidays when the county government is closed.

The commissioners have said they do not want non-county employees -- Carroll Transit drivers -- to have access to the gasoline pumps or to have a credit card good at South Carroll stations that bill the county.

Ms. Boyer said that with the county pumps or credit card, machines automatically record the vehicle, driver and amount of gas pumped, which would help prevent stealing of gas.

"Most of our drivers are retired police officers or school bus drivers," she added. "We trust them."

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