Adding routes, upgrading staff on RTA’s to-do list

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — In the aftermath of its successful levy passed last week, Allen County Regional Transit Authority’s next steps include upgrading its staff of drivers, re-instituting fixed bus routes cut in 2018 and reconsidering the compensation package of Executive Director Shelia Haney.

Board President Brad Taylor began the board’s first meeting since the levy’s passage thanking the community for coming out and supporting the levy with such wide margins. Now the campaign is over, Taylor said the RTA has to fulfill the promises it made to taxpayers.

“To the outside world, the hard work is done. For us, it has just begun,” Taylor said.

Following Taylor’s comments, the board spent 35 minutes discussing the particulars of staffing, reinstating routes and book-keeping.

But before the board ended its Tuesday meeting, it spent an hour in executive session, which ended with the board voting to create a select committee from its members to discuss Haney’s compensation package as the board re-categorizes the director position from contractor to employee.

As for the public portion of the meeting, Haney said one of the first tasks that the ACRTA needs to address after the levy’s passage is the ACRTA’s staffing levels. Prior to the voter’s approval of the levy, the RTA had seen 68% turnover rates, as many drivers have sought out new employment. Driver training of new employees has also slacked, Haney said, and in some cases, the RTA had new employees working as bus drivers a week after hiring.

“We’ve been so shorthanded for so long, we’ve missed some of our training,” Haney said. “The staff here, we lost a lot of employees. It hurt us a lot. It exhausted us having to retrain.”

The RTA’s challenge will be to reinstate prior staffing levels while it waits for the new funds come in, Haney said. The tax dollars collected by the 0.1% sales tax increase are estimated to come into the ACRTA’s coffers no later than 2020.

Adding bus routes previously cut will have many of the same issues. Haney said she has already had some residents ask when the old services will be brought back, but the answer may take some time as the board considers ways to reduce the price tag associated with re-instituting night and Saturday routes.

“At this point, we don’t want people to expect anything just yet,” Taylor said.

No matter how long it takes Haney said, the move is imperative to operations, since the promise was made to voters who entrusted their tax dollars with the ACRTA.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Haney also publicly thanked campaign organizer Leslie Rigali and Lima Mayor David Berger for their work on the ACRTA’s levy campaign.

“Without their knowledge, I don’t know if we would have done as well as we did,” Haney said.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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