RFTA ups charge to city for running Ride | PostIndependent.com

RFTA ups charge to city for running Ride

The financially strapped Ride Glenwood Springs has been hit with a 13 percent hike in the cost of running the in-town bus service.The Roaring Fork Transportation Agency provides the service to the city of Glenwood Springs on a contractual basis. Although concerned about the increase, City Council agreed Thursday night to contract with RFTA for another year, after no other organizations submitted competing proposals.The increase may prompt the city to take a closer look at running the system itself. But it could face significant upfront costs if it does so.RFTA is blaming the increase on its own jump in costs for things such as labor and fuel.Last year, City Council cut back Ride Glenwood Springs’ service area to help bring it within budget, and made it free in order to boost ridership and get more benefit from the city’s tax-funded investment.The city had budgeted $588,700 for the service this year but the contract hike boosts the cost to $640,000. However, the city has received an $86,000 federal grant that will cover the difference.City officials also are talking to RFTA to see if there are any places it can cut costs.”Perhaps they’ll sharpen their pencil a little bit,” council member Chris McGovern said.Said city manager Jeff Hecksel, “I think RFTA’s open to having discussions about this and looking for ways to basically minimize the cost impact. I think RFTA’s trying to be a good partner.”Alternatives for the city would be to do its own maintenance of its buses, or run the system altogether. But running its own system would require competing with RFTA in a tight labor market for drivers and other personnel, and providing management oversight.If the city continued to contract with RFTA but did its own maintenance, that would save it $170,000. But it would have to invest in maintenance equipment and training, and most significantly in a bus storage and wash facility that could cost $500,000, city staff members said in a memo to council.McGovern wonders if the city could find a private facility in town that washes buses.”Is there an opportunity for another contract that would save us money?” she said.Hecksel said that may be an option, although a storage facility still would be required.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com

In other Glenwood Springs City Council action this week: It agreed to raise water rates by 10 percent and sewer rates by 20 percent, which will result in the average customer paying about $6 more per month for the two utilities combined. Council also decided to impose 50 percent higher rates for out-of-town wastewater customers. Although the city has few such customers now, it plans to build a new sewer plant partly to meet the needs of out-of-town customers. Council supported a proposal by the city Historic Preservation Commission to install three new stone Welcome to Glenwood Springs signs, in part so people dont confuse the new Glenwood Meadows commercial development with the core part of town. They would cost $20,000 each. Its possible the citys new Preserve America designation from the White House could make it eligible for grants to help cover the cost, but city manager Jeff Hecksel said hes not sure if the city could get the grants within the time frame pushed by proponents for installing the signs.

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