CPTA hikes Northampton rate

Published 9:46 am Thursday, June 20, 2013

JACKSON – A rate increase from the Choanoke Public Transportation Authority has county officials questioning if there is a better way to carry senior citizens to congregate meals.

On Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved the increase, changing the unit rate from $9.63 to $10.19 for the upcoming fiscal year. A unit rate is defined as a one way trip.

According to Office on Aging Director Debby Warren, the department requested sealed proposals to provide transportation services for congregate nutrition and medical appointments for the county’s elderly and disabled citizens.

Funding for the congregate meals comes from federal and state sources through a $298,030 Home and Care Community Block Grant, while funding for the transportation part comes from state dollars through a program in the Department of Transportation.

Warren said CPTA was the only agency to submit a sealed proposal.

“The CPTA Board of Directors approved for the rate increase due to a non-local match support contribution from the county,” she said. “This is the only choice we have.”

Vice Chair Commission Virginia Spruill questioned if there was a rate increase for other counties CPTA services.

“No, just for Northampton,” said Warren.

“Are we being penalized for anything,” asked Spruill.

“I think we are being penalized because Northampton County did not give them an appropriation,” said Warren.

“Is that legal?” said Spruill.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins said he could not answer the legality of the decision, but it was probably “non-business friendly to Northampton County.”

Warren asked if any commissioners serve on the CPTA board.

Jenkins said there was no commissioner representative, but Aussie Broadnax and Rebecca Bayse of the Faison Senior Center represent the county on the CPTA Board.

“But the senior center is not a county operation,” said Spruill. “So we still are not totally (represented for the county).”

Spruill asked if there was another transportation service the county could utilize.

“If there is, I am not aware of it and this was advertised,” Warren said. “I know there’s not a transit authority; CPTA is it for Northampton, Halifax, Bertie and Hertford counties.”

Commissioner Fannie Greene said the county has been dealing with increases from the agency every year.

“But we don’t have any choice,” she said. “I do agree there is a problem, but what do we do?”

Warren said medical transportation has really become popular.

“We’ve used all of our medical money,” she said. “We’re moving some (funding) from another source.”

She added the medical transportation that Office on Aging offers is strictly on the CPTA bus. Warren said the mileage reimbursement comes from a different fund that the department has not yet received.

Spruill said the reason why the county did not put forth an appropriation for a matching grant for CPTA is because they couldn’t do it at the time.

“Why are we penalized for not being able to do it financially,” she questioned. “I don’t disagree with this program, but there comes a time when we can’t do everything to everybody.”

Commissioner Chester Deloatch moved to not approve the rate increase for CPTA. That measure failed in a vote 4-1 with Deloatch being the only commissioner voting for his motion.

Jenkins noted the additional increase identified based on current year mileage will cost the program an additional $1,700 a year.

“In the spirit of good business practice and maximizing investment on return, their request was a $13,000 match,” he said.

Jenkins noted it was $1,700 of program money and not local tax dollars as the match would have been.

Warren asked the commissioners if there was any money to spare to allocate it to the Office on Aging because the $1,700 reduction would decrease their services.

Commission Chair Robert Carter asked his colleagues to open a dialogue with CPTA regarding the matter.

Spruill moved to approve the agreement for transportation services provided by CPTA. Green offered a second and the measure passed 4 to 1 with Deloatch opposing.

Jenkins recommended the board to invite the CPTA executive director to make a presentation to the commissioners.

Later in the meeting, Jenkins suggested looking to local churches in providing transportation for seniors going to congregate meals.

He added money that is saved could be reallocated to the home delivered meals program to serve the more than 100 people on a waiting list.

“These people at home can’t get to the senior center,” Jenkins said.

Warren noted there are stipulations that go with the Community Grant as to how much the county has to use on each allocation.

“We would have to receive a waiver from the state if we don’t use x-amount of dollars on congregate nutrition,” she said. “But I could work on that.”