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Piedmont Area Transit

CUMBERLAND – Funding for the bus transportation service provided to Cumberland County by Piedmont Area Transit is back in the County's budget for the upcoming fiscal year after citizens showed up during Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting and voiced their concerns over the elimination of the service.

Although the decision to fully-fund the Piedmont Area Transit's service request to Cumberland's residents was made, that decision to allocate that funding in the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget did not come fast or easy by several supervisors.

Juanita Urban addressed the possible ending of the transportation service to Cumberland during the public comments segment at the beginning of the meeting.

The transportation service would have ended at the end of the month if the new budget did not receive an amendment.

“I'm here to ask you tonight why you didn't feel like you needed to help the residents of Cumberland County to have transportation to their jobs, doctors, hospitals, and grocery shopping?” she asked the board.

She continued, “Please, if you can, you can find the money that's needed for this transportation for our residents…”

Fred Shumaker also addressed the transportation service and spoke about the residents in Cumberland that would possibly lose their jobs due to not having adequate transportation once the service ends at the end of the month.

“That bus this year has served over 840 riders. Last year it served 1,781 riders,” he said. “These are people that use this bus to go to the doctor offices, to the pharmacy, to the social security office, and the majority of them use it to go to work. Now, we have handicap people in this county that will not be able to work and those are the very people that are helping to serve this county. They work in the shredding department at STEPS.”

After Shumaker's comments, Supervisor Lloyd Banks, District Two, asked about the provided Piedmont Area Transit service.

According to the discussion, riders pay $1 each way to ride to Farmville and currently the bus stops in the village area of Cumberland in the morning, mid-day, and in the afternoon five days a week.

The service previously traveled all the way to the Cartersville end of the county but because of previous budget cuts made by Cumberland the service was shortened to serve just a portion of the county.

According to Shumaker, those residents from the Cartersville area find transportation to the village/courthouse area and then ride the bus to Farmville.

When it came time to consider the appropriation of the County's 2012-2013 fiscal year budget, Supervisor Bill Osl, District One, addressed the lack of funding for Piedmont Area Transit and also read into the record a letter received from STEPS related to several Cumberland residents possibly losing their jobs at the recycling and shredding centers due to not having transportation.

Osl voted against the adoption of the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget last month after noting several cuts that had been made to services.

The public transit system, Piedmont Area Transit (PAT), is supported financially by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, allocations from the four Counties being served, a generous donation from STEPS and public fares charged to each rider.

Osl read from the letter he received from the CEO of STEPS, Inc., Sharon Harrup.

In that letter she wrote, “…I'm also writing to express my deep concern with action taken to eliminate all funding to Piedmont Regional Transit. As you may remember, this regional system was created to fill the void left when Central Virginia Transportation went out of business. Since then, the transit system has provided excellent service to our region. The positive impact this system has on Cumberland County citizens is vast… On a more personal note, I'd like to also address the impact of the loss of service to our Cumberland County employees…”

According to Harrup's letter, three Cumberland County residents “will most likely” lose their jobs at STEPS due to the lack of transportation service if the matching dollars were not provided by Cumberland.

Two of the employees work in the Commonwealth Solutions document shredding part of the business and the third employee works in the regional recycling system.

Cumberland's own Treasurer's Office utilizes the shredding service provided by Commonwealth Solutions, according to the letter.

Harrup continued in the letter, “I sincerely hope that the Board will reconsider their decision to eliminate funding for Piedmont Regional Transit.”

The Budget

Piedmont Area Transit's original request to the County has always been $10,000 but during the last few years Cumberland reduced that funding level to $5,000, which in turn reduced the service being provided.

“The request was for $10,000-that was the matching request that came in but during the last couple of years we'd been supporting that $5,000 and then it was cut to zero in the current budget for the next fiscal year. So, effective at the end of this month, the service will cease to exist all together but the request they were asking for was for $10,000,” offered Osl to the rest of the board.

At this point during the meeting the motions to amend and allocate funding to Piedmont Area Transit started pouring down in different forms and variations in the same fashion as it sounded like the rain was pouring outside the courtroom.

Chairman David Meinhard, District Four, expressed that he wanted to be certain that there would be enough surplus funds in this year's budget to provide the requested amount to Piedmont Area Transit.

“I would expect at these levels that either amount would be available,” offered County Administrator Vivian Giles to Meinhard about the additional funding.

Osl made the first motion and he requested that the Board amend the 2012-2013 budget, which was adopted last month, to include $10,000 for Piedmont Area Transit

“If it's not in the budget we have to amend it,” he said.

Immediately afterwards Supervisor Banks made a substitute motion.

His motion was for the Board to amend the budget to reflect allocating $5,000 to Piedmont Area Transit in the upcoming fiscal year.

Banks' substitute motion failed and then Meinhard followed by making another additional substitute motion.

“I want to make a substitute motion that we provide that $10,000 funding if it is available in those funds in this fiscal year ending June 30,” said Meinhard. “If we can do it with that, we'll fund it.”

Banks then decided to offer some comments.

“My concern would be this. If $5,000 would cover the cost of the expense to double that expense to simply go a little bit further down the road that doesn't serve the whole county,” he said. “Are you going to double the expense for the sake of a limited group of folks who may be in Cartersville?”

Banks added, “If we met the needs to-date with $5,000 I'm concerned with doubling the cost for the sake of a small group of residents and if the service has already been adequately provided this year why are we doubling the cost to the County?”

There were over 2,000 riders, according to information received from Piedmont Area Transit, who rode in 2009 when the $10,000 was provided by Cumberland as matching funds to the transportation service.

“It's not just a couple-it's significantly higher,” offered Osl about those who utilized the full-service when it was available.

The conversation then moved to utilizing funding adopted in the upcoming budget from the miscellaneous projects line item for the Piedmont Area Transit allocation.

Osl suggested to Banks that the board could use a portion of that money to fund the transportation service so that the upcoming budget numbers would remain the same.

“I say you take it out of the current year 'under run' of expenditures,” he said. “That would take care of Mr. Meinhard's concern and, if not, take it out of miscellaneous projects…”

Banks said, “So we're going to reduce the budget in another area by $10,000-another expense-that's all I'm concerned about.”

“That was the second option I put on the table,” suggested Osl.

Subsequently, Meinhard withdrew his substitute motion after hearing Osl's comments and then asked for a vote on Osl's motion after Supervisor Kevin Ingle, District Three, issued a call for the question.

Finally, the details of the original motion were reorganized and they include that the Board amend the 2012-2013 adopted budget to reflect an allocation of $10,000 worth of funding to Piedmont Area Transit so that the transportation system can continue to provide service to Cumberland County (the entire county) through an offset of funding in the miscellaneous projects reserve line item in the upcoming budget.

That motion carried unanimously by the Supervisors present. Supervisor Parker Wheeler was absent.

The lengthy decision was answered by applause from those sitting and waiting in attendance.