Lawmakers want input from the public.
By AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- City council is not convinced it should join a countywide door-to-door transportation system.
Before deciding, lawmakers want to hear from the public and agencies in Trumbull County that provide similar service in Warren.
Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-6th, said at Tuesday's council finance committee meeting that contributing no less than $46,832 to get the system started is a "huge risk for us to take."
She questioned why Warren would get involved when area agencies already offer similar service.
Western Reserve Transit Authority offers busing service in Mahoning County but only limited service in Trumbull County.
Worries about duplication: Some council members say there could be a duplication if the countywide system is implemented because similar service is offered by agencies including SCOPE Senior Center and Trumbull Community Action Program.
The city has allocated Community Development Block Grants in the past to help fund transportation by some social service agencies.
Councilman John Homlitas, D-3rd, is sponsoring legislation to support the countywide system, which was introduced at a council meeting last week.
He said the city's share, based on population, would come from the general fund.
Councilman Brendan Keating, D-5th, said there's no way to tell if the financially strapped city will have the means in coming years to commit to the program.
"When do we say 'no' to something?" he questioned.
Niles Mayor Ralph Infante Jr. is spearheading planning efforts for the service.
Others' contributions: Niles recently agreed to give $20,932 a year, based on a dollar per person, and trustees in Liberty agreed Monday to make a contribution of up to $13,500 for one year. Vienna Township has pledged $4,000 and county commissioners have pledged $120,000.
Local tax dollars will be used to obtain matching state and federal tax dollars.
Infante has said Trumbull County is the largest Ohio county without an established countywide transit service. Proposed rates are $3 each way within a given community; $6 each way from one community to another; and $9 round-trip from a local community, out of the county.
Councilwoman Susan Hartman, D-7th, said she thinks the proposed rates are too high.
Atty. David Engler, working with Infante on the plan, called the rates fairly standard for the kind of service that would be offered.
James Abicht, TCAP director, said the nonprofit agency runs Community Action Transportation System, which offers a transportation system open to all city residents, traveling to locations in Champion and Niles.
The agency has about 28 vehicles and last year had a general ridership of about 30,000. Dr. Kraig Markland, chairman of TCAP's board, said the agency also runs transportation services for Trumbull County Department of Job and Family Services and the county board of mental retardation and developmental disabilities.
Most CATS riders are senior citizens or the economically disadvantaged, Abicht said.
Examples he gave for rates are 75 cents from one Warren destination to another and $1.50 from Warren to Eastwood Mall.
Seeking input: Councilmen Alford Novak, D-2nd, and Bob Marchese, D-at-large, said they want to hear from other agencies that offer similar service.
Engler said he thinks a countywide system is needed in Trumbull County, noting that the service could tie in with WRTA routes and public transit service offered in Sharon, Pa.
He did not specify how.
The committee said it will continue discussing the topic, and Infante said he needs a commitment sometime in July.