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Faults found with Trumbull Transit Board

September 15, 2013
Tribune Chronicle | TribToday.com

In July, I wrote about the issues plaguing the provision of transportation to the elderly and disabled in this county since Trumbull Transit took over from the Department of Elderly Affairs at the beginning of the year.

The idea of consolidating all the transportation services in the county to prevent redundancy is a good one and has been around almost 10 years. County Commissioner Paul Heltzel campaigned in 2004 on the promise of a countywide transportation matrix. Finally in 2011, the Commissioners formed the Trumbull Transit Board to that end.

Unfortunately, the execution of a good idea has been done poorly by the commissioners. According to a letter from the prosecutor's office to the commissioners from March of this year, the commissioners were advised in July of 2011 when the Trumbull Transit Board was created that the Ohio Department of Transportation would provide the county a technical advisory study and report for setup free of charge.

According to the letter, the commissioners opted not to do that. They also rejected the suggestion by the prosecutor's office to contact counties that had successfully implemented countywide transportation systems.

They have instead contracted to several different attorneys to receive advice on how to set the system up. They seem to be doing this as they go with no real direction or plan.

Some of the advice they have received has come from Community Bus Services, the contracted provider. While this advice may or may not be good, it seems to me that allowing a private entity to advise the board, which has authority over them, is a conflict of interest.

The first order of business for the commissioners when creating the Transit Board was not seeking advice from people who knew what they were doing, but creating a levy committee to ask for more money.

The Transit Board itself was not particularly well thought out. A public records request made to commissioners asked for the criteria for the selection of board members. That record was not received in the packet of records from the commissioners.

One can assume that no such criteria exists. Although for the first year, Ralph Infante was an advisory member of the board, there are no criteria for the makeup of the board except that it have no more than four people from each political party.

The seven member Transit Board has had six resignations in the two years it has been in existence. High turnover is a signal that something is not right on the board.

Community Bus Services had the contract to provide services for Trumbull Transit when it was run by the City of Niles and continued that contract when the Trumbull Transit Board was created. On March 18, 2012, a letter from Ronald Fowlis was published in the Tribune Chronicle. In that letter, he speaks of seeing an agenda from a Trumbull Transit meeting which seems to imply that Community Bus Services was running the meeting. If this is a case of the tail wagging the dog, it is certainly inappropriate. It also explains why the issues that the seniors and disabled are having with poor service are not being properly addressed.

It is my understanding that a request for proposals for transportation services has been published and the Transit Board received proposals until Aug. 30. Perhaps a change in provider will occur through this process.

Regardless of that outcome, I suggest that the commissioners look very carefully at what they're doing and come up with a comprehensive plan for further consolidation before proceeding. Perhaps they can still get the advisory report from ODOT to help them reorganize the system.

Additionally, they need to look at how the Transit Board is composed. Perhaps having at least one person who receives transportation services would be helpful for them to understand the clients' perspectives or even a social worker who works with the elderly or disabled and understands the issues of those populations. By the way, at least one client, Carl Clemens, who before he became disabled was a business owner, has applied for the board and been turned down.

Consolidating the transportation services in this county is a good idea, but the disorganization and the allowing of a provider to have too much say in the running of the board may cause this idea to fail. If the Commissioners don't want this to collapse, they need to take the time to fix it now.

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After I submitted my column regarding State Rep. Tom Letson's hearing regarding his ``sober living house,'' I saw a video of the news report on the hearing. Not only did it show Mr. Letson doing the crosswords on his Ipad as I had noted in my column, he was also interviewed after the hearing. Mr. Letson stated the people who oppose his venture are not educated about the addiction.

I'm not sure how he can come to this conclusion since he wasn't even paying attention to what they had to say. If he had been listening to the residents (who also happen to be his constituents), he would have realized that some of the people who spoke were attorneys and health care professionals. I would venture to guess that in a crowd that size, there were many people who've been touched by addiction in some way.

The problem for Mr. Letson is not that people don't understand what he is doing. It is that they do understand that he is hiding behind the ADA and FHA in order to get around the zoning and rental rules in the city of Warren -- rules that he tried to ignore even though he is well aware of them since he once sat on the zoning board.

I'm not shocked that Mr. Letson is showing his arrogance in this situation. What really baffles me is how anyone could meet him and listen to him speak and still manage to vote for him.

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This is my last column for a while. I've decided to practice what I preach and take getting involved to a new level by running for local office. I know I will miss writing as well as the feedback I get from those who read my column.

Yoder is a West Farmington resident. Email her at editorial@tribtoday.com.

 
 

 

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