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Board grapples with CPTA rate hike

JACKSON—It seems everyone is feeling the fuel crunch…and county governments are no different.

On Monday at the Board of Northampton County Commissioners’ regular meeting, officials grappled with a rate increase to the transportation of the county’s senior citizens.

Office on Aging Director Debby Warren came before the board seeking approval of a 25 percent increase on transportation handed down from the Choanoke Public Transportation Authority (CPTA).

The Office on Aging contracts with CPTA in order to transport the county’s senior citizens to medical appointments in the area and the congregate nutrition site in Jackson.

In her decision paper, Warren asked the commissioners to approve the increase to ensure full budget utilization of Home and Community Care Block Grant funding. The increase was not budgeted.

Warren reported to the commissioners her office had been notified by CPTA last month of a rate increase from $6.75 a unit to $8.44 a unit.

“According to CPTA, increases in the recent rise in the cost of fuel has created this situation,” said Warren.

She estimated the increase for October through June will be $7,571.

Warren said she along with County Manager Wayne Jenkins and CPTA’s Executive Director Pamela Perry met to try to negotiate the rates or even try to implement phasing in the rates.

“They would not (negotiate),” she said.

Warren noted CPTA is the only public transportation organization in the county.

“They are the only choice we have,” she said.

Commission Vice Chair Robert Carter asked if the increase would decrease the services to senior adults.

“It may end up that way,” said Warren.

Jenkins suggested to the board that the county could possibly look into other means of transportation for seniors in order to make it less costly.

Although the commissioners approved a $1.69 increase to a contract between the Office on Aging and CPTA, the board will be studying the possibility of seeking other means of transportation for seniors.

After a lengthy discussion, two of the commissioners noted the Catch 22 at hand.

“They need us,” said Deloatch.

“And we need them,” countered Hester.