Transit board has tough decisions ahead

May 14th, 2010 by Ken

Intercity Transit Director Mike Harbour told his board today, that they had many tough challenges ahead, but also an opportunity.   Harbour cautioned them not to take a short term look at the world but plan for the future.

“While our revenues are down, we have many grant opportunities,” he told his board at their annual retreat.  Harbour said that stimulus money, environmental grants and other state and federal funds are available.  “You have the opportunity to make long term investments at a time when our short term revenues are down.”

Harbour told the board that they had several problems facing them in the coming year.   “If our tax measure fails we’ll have to institute fare increases, as well as make cuts in service,” he said.  Harbour said those decision would have to be made in February 2011.

He also said a number of labor issues have to be addressed.  Two of the major unions have contract negotiations next year.  “We’re going to have to be negotiating hard to bring their wages back into line,” he said.   He talked about trying for a wage freeze in 2011.

Complicating matters is the state collective bargaining act, which requires binding arbitration if the union and the  transit agency can’t reach agreement.   In doing so however, the arbitrator is confined to reaching his decision on several set points.

He can’t compare wages of a bus mechanic with wages of a mechanic in the private sector.  He has to compare his wages against the wages of another bus mechanic in a public transit system.

And finally, he wanted to know how the agency could build major capital construction projects scheduled to start this year. “How do you move forward on capital projects when you’re going out and asking for more money.”

Three major projects on the board are partly funded.  They are the Pattison Transit Center at a cost of $20 million for the first phase.  IT already has 80 percent of the cost in hand from federal grants.

The new Park and Ride lot at the Hawks Prairie Transfer Center is already 80 percent funded with state money and the downtown Olympia Transit Center expansion is also 80 percent funded with federal funds.

Posted in Government, Informational, The Real News

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