Fare increase considered for Jefferson City transit


By Madeleine Leroux

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jefferson City transit riders may face a potential fare increase in the next fiscal year.

At the Budget Committee meeting Tuesday, council members heard presentations on the transit and public works budget. Public Works Director Matt Morasch highlighted several aspects of the transit budget, including the proposed 50 cent fare increase. Currently, the fare for JeffTran riders is $1 and the fares have not been raised since 2007. Morasch specified that any fare increase would require public hearings before implementation.

The proposed increase is estimated to bring in an additional $30,000 of revenue to the transit division.

Morasch said the department also is working on how to accommodate service to the new St. Mary’s Health Center on Mission Drive within its existing service. Mayor Eric Struemph allocated $25,000 in his draft budget to allow for that addition. Morasch said it is a challenge and staff is continuing to work on how routes will be modified to add the new stop and keep their 40-minute headways.

“We’re thinking it may take three route modifications to do this,” Morasch said.

Moving into the overall Public Works Department, Morasch noted several positions that have been eliminated as well as issues with a continually aging fleet of vehicles that will need to be replaced.

Morasch said the engineering division has lost 75 percent of its design staff since last year and is down to one person. Two employees left last year when the city offered a separation incentive program and another position was eliminated after Morasch was promoted to department director from his former position as city engineer. The city eliminated the engineering supervisor position when David Bange, who previously held that title, moved to the city engineer position late last year.

But another long-term issue likely will be the department’s vehicles. Throughout his presentations Tuesday, Morasch continually spoke about the city’s deferred maintenance on vehicles and how, at some point, they will need to be replaced.

Operations Division Director Britt Smith said the street division alone has roughly $6 million worth of vehicles and $2.9 million of that is at or past its service life. He said it would require a $250,000 annual investment from the city to stabilize that life expectancy, without improvement, but it would take a $500,000 annual investment to improve the overall fleet to where city staff believe it should be.

“We know that money doesn’t just happen,” Smith said. “We don’t want to be on an unsustainable path.”

Council members took no action on the issue of the aging fleet, but did make two changes to the proposed budget. The council unanimously approved a motion to place $18,900 on the parking lot to fund a new global navigation satellite system in the engineering division. Morasch had described the item as their number one unfunded priority in that division, describing the system as a survey instrument.

Morasch said it’s a seven-year-old computer used daily for design and construction, as well as accident surveys for the Police Department. He said the system often fails to connect and will need to be replaced soon. Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner, who made the motion to fund the item, said the system often can take one or two hours to connect and, when the police need an accident site surveyed, that can cause delays in reopening highways.

“If we’re going to ask our staff to do more with less, this is one area where we need to give them more rather than less,” Scrivner said.”

The council also unanimously approved a motion to place funds for six pink sheet items of the wastewater division on the parking lot. Because the wastewater division is an enterprise fund, it is self-sufficient and all funds for new items would come from the division’s reserve fund, having no affect on the city’s general fund.

The wastewater division currently has more than $6 million in reserves. The items placed on the parking lot Tuesday were:Replacing sewers in the Woodward subdivision — cost of $120,000;

Pump replacement at the Westview Heights pump station — cost of $20,000;

Eliminating the Sharron Drive pump station — cost of $350,000;

Replacing blowers at the treatment plant — cost of $670,000;

Replacing a Jetter truck — cost of $250,000; and

Replacing the security lighting at the treatment plant — cost of $9,000.

The Budget Committee will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall and is expected to discuss the Planning and Protective Services Department, followed by all administrative sections of the budget.