The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
County Council, December 14
Approves contract for health care of jail inmates
CARTA's 5 year plan, question of funding bus replacement after 2011Warwick Jones
It was a lean meeting of the Finance Committee with little at issue, which is probably just as well as only 5 council members were present. But it was still a quorum and sufficient to deal with the few items on the agenda.
Probably the most important item was the approval a health care plan for the inmates of the County Jail. The issue has been discussed at a previous meeting. The County was not comfortable with the cost of the previous service and hired a consultant to advise it on a course of action. The consultant recommended that the provision of medial services be split off from pharmacy services and that contracts are sought for both services independently.
The Post and Courier reported details this morning. In summary, the medical service contract will be signed with Prison Health Services Inc, of Tennessee and has a value of $3.2 million. The management fee would vary on how well costs were maintained or reduced. The fee would rise in some proportion on savings below the $3.2 million, but would fall in proportion to the excess costs.
CARTA's Action Plan - the next 5 years
Considering that the presentation had been given to 4 other municipalities in recent weeks, the contents can hardly be news. But we didn't view the earlier presentations and the contents of that last night may be of interest to viewers.
Mr. Howard Chapman, the Executive Director of CARTA was at the podium. He said the plan was specifically developed to meet a federal requirement for a 5 year business plan which includes projected revenues and expenses. We did not see an actual copy of the plan, but the following is taken from his presentation. We also note the comment at the end of his presentation. CARTA will need to look to local sources to funds the replacement of half the bus fleet that will be due for replacement after 2011, he said. He didn't speculate as to what those sources might be, but he could well have been thinking the half cent sales tax.
Five year outlook: Projected revenues will maintain a useful system but at a level similar to that of present. Existing revenues will not enable major expansion or new initiatives.
Ridership Trends: Ridership grew strongly in the last half of 2005 and in 2006. Ridership in September 2006 was more than 276,000 and compares with about 160,000 in September last year Routes in North Charleston, West Ashley and East Cooper generally grew significantly but Downtown Charleston was flat and several neighborhood shuttles are struggling.
Farebox recovery trends: Farebox recovery grew strongly in the first 6 months of Phase 1 but slipped with the initiation of Phase 2. Route 10 (Rivers Avenue), Route 12 (Upper Dorchester/AFB), and Route 20 (King St/Citadel) have high recovery. Some Neighborhood shuttles have low recoveries (From our observation, the average recovery overall is about 20%)
Financial Scenario: Revenue and expenses projected over the next five years should leave a positive but modest balance for each year. But CARTA expects funds to be available from â€œlocal sourcesâ€? for new operations and capital projects. It looks to $553,000 in 2008 and modestly larger amounts in the following 3 years. It also anticipates federal funds for capital projects in 2008 amounting to $220,000 but growing to $1.2 million in 2011.
Program Overview: The emphasis will be on maintaining the present system. A new express service to Summerville is proposed but otherwise, there will be few initiatives. Most funding will go to replacing Tel-A-Ride Vehicles and establishing a capital reserve for fleet replacement.
For 2007, initiate express routes, implement targeted service reductions, continue development of Inter modal Center and install bus shelters.
For 2008, buy 2 Tel-A-Ride vehicles, extend express service to Summerville, begin a Capital Reserve Fund.
For 2009, buy 3 Tel-A-Ride vehicles and continue Capital Reserve savings.
For 2010, buy 12 Tel-A- Ride vehicles, continue Capital Reserve savings, support continued planning for commuter rail.
For 2011, buy 4 replacement coaches for express service, continue Capital Reserve savings.
Capital Reserve Fund: CARTA is budgeting to accumulate $1.2 million in the Capital Reserve Fund by the end of 2011. It anticipates that it will have access to Federal funding, through an 80/20 split, which will boost available funds to $6.1 million. This will be sufficient to replace about 20 buses, about half of the fixed route fleet. It notes that it will need additional local funds in the year beyond to replace remaining vehicles.
Old bus signs causing problems
Council members McKeown and Condon questioned Mr. Chapman about progress on removing the old signs that marked bus stops, and which were no longer used. They noted that many customers of CARTA were confused and that these signs should be taken down as soon as possible. Mr. Chapman agreed but the problem lay more with SCE &G which was reluctant to allow anybody apart from their own employees to work on its poles and on which the bus stop signs were affixed.
Councilmember Condon also drew attention to the lack of information on CARTA's web site in relation to bus stop locations. Council member Pryor suggested that as a lot of riders did not own computers, CARTA should provide more information in print.