TX: Regional Transit Seeks Local Support

March 13--With federal funding for the popular Alamo Regional Transit facing an uncertain future, officials with the agency that manages the services are turning to local governments for help making ends meet.

Dean Danos, executive director with the Alamo Area Council of Governments, told Kerr County commissioners Monday that federal funding for the transit program, which provides transportation to low-income residents in a 12-county area around San Antonio, faces a potential end on March 31 if Congress does not grant an extension for the program. He said if that happens, the program could run out of money in six months.

"If it does not get funded after that timeframe, we come to a screeching halt," Danos said.

That's why Danos and Joe Ramos, senior director of regional services for AACOG, met with county officials Monday to talk about future funding of the program that last year provided 1,450 low-cost trips for local residents. They said they expect the federally funded program to be extended but at a lower amount and asked that local entities contribute funds that could be used as local matching dollars.

"If we don't have local dollar representation when we ask for federal and state dollars, it hurts us," Ramos said.

According to Ramos, the ART program covers a population outside of Bexar County of 534,598 and last fiscal year provided 157,981 trips. The fare for local trips is $2, and the cost of a fare from Kerrville to San Antonio is $12.

More than half of the trips ART provides is taking people to the doctor.

"This is sometimes the only way that some folks can get to the doctor and get some groceries," said Commissioner Guy Overby. "Some folks just need some help."

Ramos could not say exactly how many local residents use the service but said they would get that figure to commissioners. He said they are asking the county to look at allocating $10,000 in next year's budget as matching funds for ART.

He said last year the program received about $1.2 million in federal funding, about $885,000 from the state, $400,000 from AACOG and $250,000 in local revenue including local fares.

Kerr County Judge Pat Tinley said that several years ago the county allocated $8,000 for the ART program but dropped it from the budget when they did not receive a request from AACOG.

Danos said they had not asked for a local contribution in a few years because the program had been doing well with state and local funding but that things had changed in the current economy.

"We want to be a partner with y'all, but also we are now in some dire times, and we need some help," Danos said.

Commissioners took no formal action Monday on the request.

In other matters, commissioners:

--Received once response for qualifications from attorneys to work with the county for the creation of an emergency service district. The one bid was from Carrolton Law Firm of Austin. The bid will be reviewed by the county attorney and Commissioner H.A. "Buster" Baldwin, who will make a recommendation back to the court.

--Approved business association agreement with Brown & Brown Lone Star Insurance to facilitate compliance with privacy and security rules.

--Approved the economic development agreement with David K. and Denise R. LeMeilleur for tax incentives of about $6,500 over five years following expansion of their business.

--Approved park improvements, including providing portable bathrooms from Memorial Day through Labor Day at Flat Rock Lake Park, Center Point Lions Park and Ingram Lake Park, replacing trash cans and allowing road and bridge to move donated materials in Lions Park.

--Reimbursed the Hunt Volunteer Fire Department for $15,000 in expenses spent last year.

--Authorized the county to resubmit a grant application for the East Kerr County wastewater project.

--Approved a contract with Tetra Tech to conduct an aerial survey for the East Kerr County wastewater project for $31,100.

--Requested the county attorney looking at the implementation and planning for a mandatory hookup policy for the East Kerr County wastewater project area.

--Accepted the external audit report for 2010-11.

--Appointed Angela Fiedler as the County Extension Agent Family and Consumer Sciences position in Kerr County.

--Agreed to pay the dumping fees up to $1,000 for Partners in Ministry's CSI Day on March 24.

--Accepted a bid from LBI Services of San Antonio to remove asbestos from the show barn of the Hill Country Youth Exhibit Center for $14,500 ahead of the demolition of the barn to make way for a new one.

Copyright 2012 - Kerrville Daily Times, Texas

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