Council split on role of Greenville Transit


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — Individuals that have relied on the city for transportation in the past may have to look elsewhere in the future if some members on Greenville City Council get their way. A contract with Darke County Educational Services failed with a 3-3 vote and three other contracts did not have enough votes to have the final reading in order for council to vote.

Katie Benge, director of Greenville Transit System (GTS), addressed Greenville City Council on Tuesday night and stressed the importance of the contracts on the agenda. “The private contracts that we have are what our agency currently depends on for operation. Without these contracts there is a possibility that these operations will cease,” she said. According to the director, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), who provides funding to GTS, has highly recommended the city continue with its current contracts and seek additional contracts in the future.

She said that after taking into consideration the cost of vehicle maintenance, gas, salaries and software, the city established a rate for the private contracts. “We were able to renegotiate several of our contracts at this new rate, which will increase our revenue as well as cover the fully allocated cost that we calculated. Only one of our private contracts has been competitively bid and that is the contract with Darke County Job & Family Serivces (JFS). We ultimately won that bid against all the other bidders and now it is time to approve that contract.”

The contract with Job & Family Services was set to begin on July 1. She expressed that without approval on Tuesday night, there would be hundreds of citizens without means of transportation for their medical appointments. That resolution did not receive the required number of votes to receive its third reading. “While this contract is labeled as medical transportation, it is still public transportation and not medical transportation,” she said.

A contract for Rest Haven did not receive enough votes to have the third reading. This is also a renewal contract at the new rates. According to Benge, most of the contracts that came before the council on Tuesday night were renewal contracts at new rates. She explained GTS had already been performing services for these agencies and clients and no additional vehicles or manpower was needed. Only the Darke County Educational Services contract, which failed, was a new contract.

Councilman Greg White grilled Benge over the contracts and the cost to the city. He asked if the previous contracts were county-wide or just within the city. She said they were previously county-wide.

“What was the original purpose of Greenville Transit? Was it for the citizens of Greenville or the county of Darke County?” he asked. Safety Service Director Ryan Delk tried to answer the question. Delk said he was not sure of the original purpose, but for many years prior to 2008 or 2009, GTS provided services to the county and city. The county pulled out at that time when they felt the cost was too high. About a year-and-a-half ago, the county came to the city to ask GTS to provide county-wide services after Community Action Partnership chose to drop its service. The county pays per mile what it costs to the city to provide transportation to the county. The $5 or $10 fee GTS collects for county users is credited on the monthly invoice to the county.

White asked if the citizens of the city are receiving the same level of service now that GTS is providing service to the county? Benge quickly answered, “Yes.” Mayor Jeff Whitaker elaborated, “And better, because now they are able to go out of the city.” He added, “Just to be able expand within in the county and serve the rest of the county. I mean, where the only city in the county.” White questioned Greenville being the only city in the county. Whitaker had to explain that Greenville is the only incorporated city in the county and the villages are not large enough to provide transportation services.

White questioned the cost to the city. Benge said in January and February, prior to offering county-wide service, GTS brought in $4,000-$5,000 a month. Last month, GTS brought in $30,000. “We’re doing all of this with no incremental cost other than variable costs of fuel and maintenance?” White asked. Benge again responded with, “Yes.” Delk explained with the city expanding into the county, ODOT provides 50 percent of the operating costs.

Councilman Leon Rogers questioned the city’s claim that citizens are receiving the same service prior to offering county-wide service. He said he has spoken with GTS users that have experienced a wait time that was well over an hour. Benge explained that if users schedule their trips ahead of time, GTS is better able to serve the user. If a user decides to wait until they are done shopping before calling dispatch, there is a chance they will have to wait until a driver can be freed up.

Even after all was explained, White expressed his concern that Greenville will be subsidizing county transit.

Following the meeting, Mayor Whitaker was asked about the transit program and what is next. “I don’t know,” he said. “I will just say this. Regarding those that voted no. They don’t see the need for public transportation in Greenville and Darke County. It was explained, even the financials. I don’t know what else, (what) more information they need. Or else, they just didn’t know what they were voting on.” He continued, “I’m very perturbed by that. This is a service that we’re blessed to be able to provide to the citizens. This is what local government is for – to provide services like that for the citizens.”

Mayor Whitaker was also asked about the veteran banners downtown and what is next for banners since Main Street Greenville voted to drop the program. In an op-ed released by the mayor, he pointed out that he originally voted to move the banners to the park. He and the board relented and voted to install the banners downtown again this year. “We’re going to do the banner program. They are going to do their marketing banners downtown in conjunction with the veterans. The veterans will be handled by Darke County Veterans Services. I had a meeting with them regarding the Veterans Day Parade and that was brought up. They’ve always wanted to be in on that,” said Mayor Whitaker. The mayor pledged to keep the banners downtown. They are hoping to run the banners the length of South Broadway from Martin Street to Garst Museum. Darke County Veterans Services is expected to sell the banners at cost.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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