Now that the penny sales tax has passed, the Midlands bus system says it could begin hiring additional staff in anticipation of new funding as early as the first of next year.
Even though bus officials do not expect to see any money from the penny sales tax until August, the Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority has the legal authority to borrow money in the interim, bus officials said Wednesday.
That money, would be used to reinstate bus services for riders and hire additional people who, executive director Bob Schneider says, would be key to moving the bus system forward.
Schneider said among the transit authority’s first steps would be to reinstate services to include extended nighttime and weekend services as well as more frequent service. Hiring additional people, he said, would be critical to ensuring that happened and would play a vital role in implementing the authority’s overall strategic plan.
“We cannot and will not get there without people to carry this forward,” he said.
Currently the transit authority has four employees on its administrative staff. Veolia Transportation Services, the private contractor that operates the buses, has 85 employees, including bus drivers, supervisors, mechanics and employees who fuel and clean the buses. Schneider, who is also a Veolia employee, serves as the external liaison for the organization and implements the decisions of the board.
At CMRTA’s regular board meeting Wednesday, Schneider released a staffing proposal that detailed an additional seven locally funded positions to be added to CMRTA.
Chief among the new hires would be a planning manager and a procurement manager, Schneider said. A planning manager would be responsible for growing ridership and conducting ridership research while a procurement manager would oversee the purchasing and receiving of equipment, goods and services. The other positions are support positions.
Barring any delays from further penny sales tax referendum protests, the transit authority could begin hiring those staff members as early as January or February, he said.
An additional referendum appeal – filed by unsuccessful County Council candidate Michael Letts, who is also co-chairman for Citizens for New Elections in Richland County – is set to go before the state election commission Monday. Letts lost his initial protest Dec. 3 before the county.
The protests have been enough to delay advertising for the transit positions, Schneider said, and board members Wednesday raised other concerns over potential delays to the restoration of services should the protests go before the state Supreme Court.
“(This protest) is costing the entire community,” transit authority chairman Brian DeQuincey Newman said to the board. “... It’s single-handedly tying up folks from being able to get to their jobs, from going to school and everything else.”