OH: New Veterans Transportation Contract a Savings for Taxpayers

Jan. 30--BUTLER COUNTY -- A new veterans transportation contract could save county taxpayers thousands of dollars this year.

The county's Veteran Service Commission signed a new deal to transport local veterans to medical appointments earlier this month with a private firm.

Butler County's veterans transportation program has traditionally been the most expensive one in the state compared to other counties. The agency had budgeted to spend upwards of nearly $500,000 in taxpayer funds this coming year on the new transportation contract.

The current contract with Butler County Regional Transit Authority, which expires March 15, charged county taxpayers roughly $290,000 to pick veterans up at their door and transport them to medical appointments within the county as well as Veteran Affairs medical centers in Cincinnati and Dayton.

But, for the first time in years, the county will spend significantly less on transporting those vets to locations in our region; Fairfield-based Universal Transportation Systems LLC bid $263,628 on the transportation contract and won the bid. The company's bid was the lowest of three other bidders, including a bid by the BCRTA.

"We just consider it a real honor and privilege to serve the veterans," UTS President Carolyn Burer said.

This isn't the first time UTS has held the transportation contract for the Butler County Veterans Service Commission, but it is the first time they bid so low on the contract. UTS held the contract for roughly a decade from 2001 to 2010, but at that time they charged taxpayers nearly twice as much for the same service, at $481,000 per year. At the time, Butler County's transportation costs were three times higher than any other county in the state.

Burer said she couldn't pinpoint an exact reason for the lower bid, but said the company has done some "re-structuring" and ordered energy-efficient vehicles to cut down on costs.

The regional transit authority, which is the public busing service for the region, also bid on the new contract for $360,000. BCRTA Executive Director Carla Lakatos said out-of-county trips have been more expensive than what transit authority officials had expected, causing the transit authority to raise its bid. The BCRTA bid on and won the veteran transportation contract in 2010.

"We just did our best," Lakatos said of the BCRTA bid for the veteran transportation contract.

Last year, BCRTA made more than 11,200 trips transporting the county's veterans.

Lakatos said any member of the public -- including veterans -- can still use the county's transportation system to get rides to medical appointments or other events.

Butler County Veteran Service Commission Director Curt McPherson said any leftover money from the agency's budget will be returned to the county commissioners at the end of the year.

Copyright 2014 - Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio

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