State to keep more money from MARTA Md. wants emissions firm to upgrade performance

September 25, 1996|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF

The state plans to deny another $108,000 to the company that runs its Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program because of financial discrepancies and long wait times at testing stations, officials said yesterday.

Maryland already has slashed the fees it pays the company by $122,000 because of operational problems in May and June.

At a briefing in Annapolis yesterday, state transportation and environment officials discussed their struggle to get the company, MARTA Technologies Inc. of Nashville, Tenn., to upgrade its performance.

Legislative leaders called the briefing after The Sun reported on widespread problems uncovered by auditors for the state Motor Vehicle Administration. The audits, released at the newspaper's request, found monetary irregularities, poor recordkeeping, inadequate staffing and malfunctioning inspection equipment.

MARTA runs the testing program under a five-year, $96.9 million contract with the state. The company is responsible for operating and maintaining 19 vehicle emissions inspections stations in 13 counties and Baltimore.

Yesterday, state officials said they plan to reduce the money they pay MARTA by $97,000 to cover shortages in inspection fees the company should have collected since July 1995. They also will deduct another $11,000 because motorists had to wait too long at some stations in August, bringing the latest total reduction to $108,000.

In addition, the state is withholding $800,000 in construction fees until MARTA makes improvements to a Montgomery County station and provides necessary documentation about a computer software system, said MVA chief Ronald L. Freeland.

Despite continued problems, Freeland told lawmakers that MARTA has made improvements this summer as a result of prodding by the state.

Legislators also heard testimony about the planned sale of MARTA to Envirotest Systems Corp., a rival company based in California. Both MARTA and Envirotest officials promised a smooth transition if the sale is approved by the two companies and if the state allows Envirotest to take over the Maryland contract.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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