RFTA seeks FEMA funds for bus barn fire damage | PostIndependent.com

RFTA seeks FEMA funds for bus barn fire damage

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority says it suffered nearly $30,000 in damages to its new bus barn from the Coal Seam Fire.

Compared to the false early reports of exploding buses and a burned-down facility, the agency came out well.

Most of the damage at the bus maintenance facility was to its drip irrigation system and landscaping. Irrigation hoses melted under the intense heat and erosion mats used in landscaping were burned.

In an effort to recoup money spent on repairs, RFTA is working with Glenwood Springs city attorney Teresa Williams and Garfield County officials to secure Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, funds to help cover the cost of repairs.

In addition to the fire damage already sustained, RFTA officials have expressed some concern about the possibility of debris and mud flows causing more damage.

“We feel better than we did,” RFTA maintenance director Kenny Osier said.

When the existing debris flow basin was checked, city and RFTA officials determined that it should be large enough to handle any debris flows.

“It was actually oversized,” Osier said of the basin’s original design.

But receiving FEMA compensation might not be so easy.

The catch is, contrary to FEMA’s policy for residents and private businesses, government entities need to wait longer to receive money.

“It’s got to go to higher levels,” Osier said.

RFTA officials also have expressed concern about how a dip in sales tax revenue in the city will affect their budget, which is partly funded by Glenwood Springs. It is unclear whether sales tax losses can be compensated by FEMA, Osier said.

These issues are on the agenda for tonight’s meeting of the Operations and Performance Oversight Committee, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the new El Jebel Community Center.

Also on the agenda is a report on RFTA’s updated drug and alcohol policy, which is being updated to comply with new U.S. Department of Transportation nationwide rules concerning drug and alcohol consumption by drivers and others who operate equipment.

“It’s kind of a cat and mouse game. When they see people have figured out how to beat the system, they change it,” RFTA safety and training operations manager Kent Blackmer said.

One of the ways people have been beating the system, he said, is by ingesting “adulterants,” such as drinks, powders and pills that mask the presence of drugs in someone’s system. The new rules clamp down on those who have these adulterants in their system, as well as many other types of testing irregularities.

“The bottom line is they want to make sure promulgation of their regulations is reflected in our policy,” Blackmer said.

The changes are necessary for any entity that receives federal transportation funds, Blackmer said.

The committee will also discuss whether to accept Colorado Department of Transportation enhancement funds awarded to RFTA to fund the installation of bicycle lockers at various bus stops. The $40,000 award would be spent during 2003, but requires a local match of $10,000.

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