NRoute board declines to fund regional position

Published 12:05 pm Thursday, February 24, 2011

A job created in December by the NRoute public transportation system through federal stimulus money might not be extended into the fiscal year that begins in October.

The NRoute Transportation Commission rejected Wednesday an effort to extend the 12-month temporary position of a seven-county central district mobility manager, but is considering offering the $38,500 job at a pro-rated term if other transportation agencies throughout the region chip in.

Executive Director Evelyn Bumpers presented the board with a proposed budget for fiscal year 2011-2012. It includes a grant application package asking the Mississippi Department of Transportation for federal and state dollars.

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Also included was the mobility manager’s $38,500 salary, of which NRoute would be responsible for 20 percent, since 80 percent will be reimbursed through MDOT.

“I don’t think any of us have any intentions of underwriting this to the fullest extent, but we will consider a pro-rated share,” said newly elected commission president Mark Buys.

The public hearing on the proposed budget, which was held Wednesday though no one from the public attended, is required by MDOT annually.

The commission voted to end the position when the current term expires in January 2012 if no other transportation agency picks up the tab.

The job of a mobility manager was created through a $45,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation under the American Recovery Reinvestment Act. The position oversees the transportation needs of the state’s seven-county central region — Warren, Hinds, Copiah, Simpson, Madison, Rankin and Yazoo.

The commission’s total proposed budget is $875,564, which includes $451,107 from federal and state sources.

Local sources include the City of Vicksburg, which NRoute is asking for $170,000, and the Warren County Board of Supervisors, $34,074. In addition, the board wants both to kick in $58,883 for administrative costs.

Fares are projected to bring in $125,000; bench advertising, $5,000; and contracted services with other agencies, $6,500. The contracts depend on commission approval.

NRoute is currently negotiating contracts with CPP Wound Care LLC in Claiborne County and Warren-Yazoo Mental Health.

In other business, February saw a steep decrease in ridership, at 1,941 from 2,625 in January. February generated $2,706 in fares.

Bumpers blamed the decrease on the 11 buses being parked for three days: one for Presidents’ Day and two for icy road conditions.

Overall, NRoute’s financial standing was reported to be good since the system implemented suggestions made by independent audits of the agency’s 2008 and 2009 books, commission accountant Elvin Parker told the board.

He said cash on-hand is $28,271.84.

“We feel pretty confident that our financial footing for the remainder of 2011 is solid,” Buys said. “With the funds we received, we should be OK.”