WEIRTON - The Weirton Transit Corp. continues to seek drivers, even those without a commercial driver's license, and the agency may soon seek a levy to assist in an expansion of its services.
Amos Gregory, Michael S. Weaver, Curt Hinchee and Gary Pitcock were present at Wednesday's regular meeting, but there were not enough agency members to constitute a quorum. Transit Manager Kevin Beynon filled them in on what he could, though no official motions or votes were able to be entertained.
A driver who has been on sick leave for an extended period of time has returned, and applications are being accepted in the hopes of filling a total of three open driver positions, Beynon said. Staff has been stretched thin in recent months as a result of the vacancies. A smaller WTC bus can be operated by a regular licensed driver, which has opened the position to people without CDLs.
The Brooke County Commission has agreed to provide $5,000 to the WTC, in two installments of $2,500, as it has done in the past, Beynon said. Forty-seven percent of the transit riders and destinations are in Brooke County, according to officials. The WTC had requested $10,000 this year, but budget cuts in Brooke County were cited when commissioners approved half that amount.
The Hancock County Commission will provide $15,000, which comes from video lottery revenue.
Beynon reported that ridership for July was up by 172 passengers from last year, making a total of 3,953 passengers that month. He noted that every month in 2014 thus far has seen increased ridership compared to last year.
As school begins, more traffic congestion will exacerbate delays caused by local construction, Beynon warned. The project on Pennsylvania Avenue was originally scheduled to be completed by October, but officials said the timeline has been extended, making it unclear how long drivers will have to work around it.
A special committee designated to handle issues, including deviations from the main bus route and how to generate additional revenue, was organized at June's board meeting. At the July meeting, committee members announced their conclusion: another bus and another driver are needed to meet current demand.
Finding the funding to provide that is the next step, and officials are considering a levy. Beynon is researching the process with the help of City Finance Director Tom Maher, and the committee will likely meet again to discuss how to proceed.
"We need more communication with the community. We need the help of the people who use transit to get this passed," Gregory commented.
Hinchee said that as far as levies go, this one would not be a "big ticket item" for residents to bear.
Local dollars are matched with federal dollars, so any revenue generated for WTC locally will be doubled. The City of Weirton contributes $50,000 per year, and the WTC must seek an additional $45,000 of local money to make expansion possible.
Beynon attended the West Virginia Public Transit Association convention last month and received a plaque on behalf of the WTC recognizing them for outstanding dedication to their customers. He also informed the board that a virtually statewide decision was made at the convention that children will no longer be permitted to be seated in strollers on buses. Large strollers take up handicapped seating, so children must be either held or seated in a regular bus seat.