Councilors called for better oversight of the Citylink bus system at the end of Monday's City Council meeting after hearing concerns about fleet maintenance.
"We are not asking for anything dramatic here," Councilor Joshua Shea said. "We are asking that the parties get together and really get their stuff together because this is a safety issue."
A state audit performed in April and May found 17 violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations at the Western Maine Transportation Services-managed bus fleet. They included nine violations for failing to keep appropriate maintenance records and eight for problems with anti-lock brake systems and speedometers.
The violations occurred with Western Maine's fleet of 25 ADA and on-demand buses.
The state review included a list of changes Western Maine was required to make. Those involved removing vehicles in need of state inspections from service, hosting safety seminars for Western Maine drivers and maintenance staff and keeping better records for all vehicles maintained by Western Maine. In addition to Citylink, the company manages the fleet for Sugarloaf's Mountain Explorer. It also operates its own on-demand ADA accessible fleet.
Officials from the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee hired national bus maintenance consultant Halsey King to review the bus system's records, inspect Citylink buses, review maintenance practices and analyze the operation's inventory and administrative practices.
Monday's City Council resolve calls for the Transit Committee and the MDOT to actively monitor the Citylink service and Western Maine Transportation Service to make sure the problems are solved.
Councilor Belinda Gerry objected. Gerry, the City Council representative to the transit committee, said the motion presumed guilt. She preferred waiting for results of the King report, saying they were innocent until proven guilty.
"I cannot support this now," she said. "I'm not going to throw, for lack of a better word, our current provider of transportation under the bus -- and I think we're doing that. I think we could potentially jeopardize their business if we do that."
But Shea said Gerry's concerns were mistaken.
"I think the hyperbole of 'innocent until proven guilty' is way, way overdone," Shea said. "This is a matter of a clear breach of contract and we lay out why there is a breach."
Councilor Leroy Walker agreed.
"We need to follow through with what we have here, and I think we'll come to a good agreement in the end," Walker said.
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