LIMA — With little less than two weeks of funding left in Allen County Regional Transit Authority coffers due to the partial government shutdown, Allen County Commissioners have promised to loan the money needed for the bus service’s operating budget — essentially covering payroll, fuel and utilities costs — until the agency’s federal grant is made available.
Earlier this week, ACRTA announced it would need to cut employee payroll during the shutdown, but with the county’s help, that result should be avoided.
“As soon as we got the email (from ACRTA), it was all hands on deck,” Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said during a Thursday meeting with ACRTA officials. “The main questions I had were ‘Can we do it?’ and ‘How can we do it?’”
ACRTA Executive Director Shelia Haney didn’t give a price tag of what the agency would need from the county, but plans were put in place for the county to begin drafting the necessary legislation to form a memorandum of understanding with ACRTA while the agency works to name the right figure. The county should be able to be ready to pass that ordinance by next Thursday.
“There’s an unknown how long Congress is going to be in the situation that it’s in,” Noonan said. “We want to ensure (ACRTA officials) have what they need to get through.”
Haney said part of the difficulty of understanding how much the transit authority needs is because there’s no end date on the partial government shutdown.
The agency had planned to receive roughly $1 million from the federal government throughout 2019. Contracts for bus routes and other services with governmental and educational agencies also help pad ACRTA’s revenues.
During Thursday’s meeting with commissioners, Haney also asked the county to front some of the annual service contract payments earlier to help get the bus service through the shutdown. Allen County Department of Job and Family Services Executive Director Joe Patton said his agency should be able to pay $11,000 of its roughly $32,000 annual contract with ACRTA for the fixed bus route service it provides to the agency’s building on Dixie Highway.
Mayor David Berger made similar plans on Wednesday and has asked Lima City Council to consider paying up front the $100,000 it normally allocates to the ACRTA instead of paying by installments.
Noonan said the county will use a portion of its general fund to make the loan by using some of the funds allocated to end-of-2019 projects, and once federal funding begins to move again, there should be no change in the county’s overall budget.
“It’s not really a risk for what we’re asking the county to do,” ACRTA Board President Brad Taylor said. “We’re very grateful to our local officials for stepping up.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.