City and Schuylkil Transportation Authority negotiate Lease Agreement

April 22--Before bus service will begin at Pottsville's new Union Station, the city and the Schuylkill Transportation Authority must come to terms on a lease agreement.

Negotiations started at the beginning of the month and are scheduled to resume at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the office of Mayor John D.W. Reiley, said Chester C. Corse Jr., Pottsville, the assistant city solicitor for economic development.

"I can't tell you when those negotiations will end," Corse said Thursday.

"(Authority officials) refer to it as a user agreement," he said of what is also referred to as a lease agreement.

The $17 million, 18,000-square-foot facility at 300 S. Centre St. currently houses the Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau on the ground floor, which opened in the last week of March. The facility will also house a bus station and a Pottsville police substation on the third floor and commercial space on the second.

Corse said no date has been set to establish the police substation, and there are no tenants for the second floor. However, city officials are planning to hold a grand opening celebration in mid-June.

Construction is almost complete. Odds and ends, including a decorative fountain, are still being added, Corse said Thursday.

Negotiations regarding bus service at Union Station were put off while the Schuylkill Transportation Authority worked to take control of the Schuylkill Transportation System and its 58 employees, including drivers, maintenance and office staff, which occurred April 1, Corse said.

Previously, Schuylkill County paid The ReDCo Group, a nonprofit agency, more than $300,000 a year to do the paperwork and provide human resources for STS. In an effort to save money, the county terminated the management contract with The RedCo Group and handed the responsibility to STA, an independent authority.

So far, Corse and STA representatives have only met once and the meeting included Mike Micko, STS vice president for public transportation services, and STA attorney Nicholas A. Quinn, Pottsville.

There are many issues to discuss but no sticking points are apparent, Corse said.

"We don't know of any yet. The city prepared the user agreement and we sent it to the transportation authority a week before April 1. Because of the takeover of STS by the authority, we really haven't been able to meet to discuss it. So far, there hasn't been any position taken by the transportation authority with respect to any of the matters involved," Corse said.

The user fee STA would pay the city to occupy the space at 300 S. Centre St. is among the items to be discussed, Corse said.

"I'm not at liberty to tell you the city's position on that, but I can say that that's part of the agreement," Corse said.

Corse said he doesn't know when negotiations will wrap up or when bus service will begin at Union Station.

"It was contemplated that the agreement would be concluded prior to the assumption of operations. That didn't happen," Corse said. "Being optimistic, this user agreement could be settled by Wednesday. And once that's in place, it's entirely up to the authority when they want to begin operations, and there's going to have to be a move-in period so they can move their people in."

Quinn could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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