County studies vehicle donation
Author: Amy Zalar
Date: January 23, 2008
A solution was proposed Tuesday about how senior citizens in Fayette County could travel to neighboring Somerset County to attend a monthly church dinner, a practice that was halted in September when concerns arose about federal transit regulations.
Michelle Grant Shumar, director of the Fayette Area Coordinated Transportation office, discussed a proposal with the Fayette County commissioners at the commissioners' agenda meeting to give a nonprofit organization an older FACT vehicle to use for trips outside the county, although concerns were raised about other organizations seeking such consideration.
Shumar suggested that the county could donate an older, road-worthy 14-passenger FACT vehicle to the Mountain Citizens Action Group to use to attend events outside the county. Shumar said there currently is a problem because of federal charter rules that prohibit the use of rented vehicles outside of county lines.
The issue first arose when a group of about two dozen senior citizens from the Farmington area and residents from Henry Clay Villa, a Fayette County nursing and personal care center, did not attend the Addison United Methodist Church monthly dinner just across the Fayette-Somerset county line because FACT did not transport them there.
Up until the September dinner, handicapped-equipped FACT buses had for several years taken the senior citizens to the dinner, as well as to festivals in West Virginia. Henry Clay Villa residents were upset, and Shumar said at the time she would work to find a solution to the problem.
Shumar told the commissioners a 14-passenger vehicle doesn't require a commercial drivers license, and the citizens group could use volunteer drivers. Although Shumar told Commission Chairman Vincent Zapotosky she doesn't have any written documentation from the federal transit authority, she has been in contact with legal representatives on the federal level about the rules. Shumar also said the rules are being changed, and she has been working with state Rep. Timothy S. Mahoney, D-South Union Township, on the issue.
Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink said she thinks providing the vehicle to the citizens group is a viable solution, but her only red flag is the way in which the county informs nonprofit organizations about when vehicles are ready for retirement. Zimmerlink said she wants to put something in place for other groups that are interested in obtaining retiring vehicles.
"I want to make it a level playing field," Zimmerlink said.
Zapotosky said any such policy or procedure should apply to all county surplus items.
Commissioner Vincent A. Vicites said he would like the stamp of approval from the Mountain Citizens Action Group about their desire to obtain the vehicle before taking action, although Zimmerlink said at this point it is just discussion.
In other FACT discussion, the commissioners voted to place on Thursday's agenda a motion to approve an agreement between FACT and the Fayette County Area Vocational-Technical School for internship placements for automotive/diesel maintenance at the FACT transit center maintenance department. Zapotosky said such partnering between the county and vo-tech school would be a good thing.
Shumar said the agreement could lead to jobs for high school seniors who obtain internships.
The commissioners also will vote Thursday on a purchase order in the amount of $1.8 million to Gillig Corp. of Hayward, Calif., to purchase six 29-foot low floor buses in the amount of about $306,000 per vehicle. Shumar said the FACT is participating in a statewide purchase of many vehicles. She said it is similar to the state piggyback program.
The commissioners also voted to place on Thursday's agenda a motion to seek a request for qualifications for the solicitor and/or alternate solicitor for the zoning hearing board. The motion stemmed from an announcement that alternate solicitor Jim Higinbotham has resigned. Zimmerlink suggested that because it is a new year and the zoning board hasn't reorganized, the commissioners should find out their views, including the possibility of seeking a new solicitor.
The commissioners also are slated to take action Thursday regarding whether they will serve as the tax assessment appeals board for the next four years or appoint an independent board to hear the appeals. The board determines how much a property owner is charged in property taxes. For the last four years, the commissioners have served in that capacity, but it was an independent board the prior four years.
Zimmerlink is in favor of the commissioners handling the duties, Vicites is in favor of an independent board and Zapotosky has not yet made his decision known.
Fayette County chief assessor James A. Hercik said the county is in the midst of a reassessment, and he doesn't know how many appeals will be filed. The last time the county went through a property reassessment - the first in more than 40 years - there were 10,000 appeals, Hercik said.
Hercik said he doesn't anticipate more than 10 to 15 days of hearings this year, but can't guess how many appeals would be heard in 2009.
Hercik said in the spring of 2009, the reassessment notices will be sent to property owners and the appeals will be held in the summer and fall, and must be completed before Oct. 31, 2009, before the new values take affect in Jan. 1, 2010.