The Ottumwa Courier

February 14, 2013

New rules needed at Ottumwa Transit

Director tackles ridership, advisory board, paratransit rules

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Ottumwa Transit’s new director is diving right into the position, establishing new ridership rules and clarifying transparency issues.

At Ottumwa Transit’s advisory board meeting on Wednesday, its director, Dave Silverio, said he has backtracked through some paperwork from previous director Diane Gawronski and found a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Ottumwa Transit and Ottumwa Job Corps establishing transit services, which were approved at the time as a legal charter by the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The IDOT did say, though, that eventually Ottumwa Transit needs to establish a contract.

“I don’t believe it was properly done,” Silverio said of the MOU that was signed in August 2012.

The MOU states that Ottumwa Transit will provide daily transportation to and from the center from 7:25 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. Monday through Friday with pick-up and drop-off every hour.

Board member Shannon Addison said in the future, MOUs should be taken to the board first for discussion, then to the council for approval, since all board members were unaware that this MOU had taken place.

“Technically, an MOU has to be taken to the advisory board for recommendation to the City Council for approval because it is construed as a contract,” Addison said.

Addison questioned why Ottumwa Transit was providing transportation services to the Job Corps center at all when the center itself runs three regular buses, two larger buses, four vans and four to five vehicles.

Silverio said as the number of students at Job Corps grew, the increase was becoming too cumbersome for their drivers.

“They had two choices,” Silverio said. “Hire their own driver and transport their own kids, or we stepped in because we did not want to lose those ridership numbers.”

In January, the airport bus carried 3,576 riders (17 percent of transit’s total ridership count in January), at least half of which were Job Corps students, Silverio said.

“Moving forward, these things need to go through the advisory committee, then the council,” Silverio said. “I don’t profess to have the knowledge of all DOT and federal specifications, so why would I enter into a contract all on my own?

“The idea, method and effort [Gawronski] went through to nail down that business was great, and the intentions were perfect. But the legalities of it need addressed.”

Addison said this is why advisory boards should exist and not be “abolished,” as was suggested by Councilman Jeremy Weller at the most recent City Council meeting.

“Instead of abolishing all boards, I feel it’s advisable for advisory boards to be aware of things like this because we can possibly provide information that might be helpful for things like this, that way nobody gets their knickers in a wad,” Addison said.

Also discussed at Ottumwa Transit’s advisory board meeting:

Ottumwa Transit director Dave Silverio said ridership rules must be established, written and posted in order to be enforced.

He said a new set of rules involving paratransit service needs to be developed, including what happens if a rider cancels at the last minute, how many items they’re allowed to bring on the van and more.

“The only thing I want to say ... is we need to remember these people are using the paratransit van because of their disabilities,” Silverio said. “So we have to be really careful when we limit what they can take back and forth because for some of these people, that trip is arduous.”

Councilman Mitch Niner suggested that a policy be developed that no more than six bags are allowed on the paratransit van at a time.

Silverio also developed a preliminary list of passenger rules on the fixed route buses, which includes rules such as “no fighting,” “no littering,” “no abusive or vulgar language” and several others.

A complete list will be developed for the next board meeting on March 13.

A policy regarding service animals and pets will also be developed by the next meeting.