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LEGISLATURE ASKED TO RETHINK ROLE IN RUNNING PUBLIC BUSES

On the heels of a report showing a $140,000 deficit from 1999, a Chautauqua County legislator is asking lawmakers to take a serious look at whether the county should remain in the bus business.

Lance Spicer, R-Falconer, raised concerns about the Chautauqua Area Rural Transportation System during a meeting of the Legislature on Wednesday night.

His comments followed a decision to delay action on a resolution increasing the hourly wage of drivers from the former Jamestown Area Regional Transit System by 23 cents. Spicer added that the local share for the bus company has grown considerably from the initial $40,000 in 1980 and has now added fixed routes in Jamestown and Dunkirk.

"There have been some hitches along the way and we've grown substantially, and at this point the local share this year is about $158,000," he said.

Spicer added the independent study of the Chautauqua transportation system indicates several problems -- one of them with employees.

"Many of the workers went over the maximum hourly time. By contract they had to be given benefits, which caused the costs to go up," he said. "We all ought to step in and take a look at this whole program and decide, do we want to be in the bus business?"

Spicer also noted that the transportation system last year took in $2.7 million in revenues but had expenses totaling $2.8 million.

Jamestown Democrat Joseph Trusso scolded Spicer for bringing the matter to the entire Legislature without first going to the Public Facilities Committee.

In other matters, following through on a promise made when she was elected Legislature chairwoman, Jane Fagerstrom, D-Jamestown, told lawmakers she wants the ad hoc Budget Reconciliation Committee to meet monthly.

Fagerstrom said it is important to have one panel dealing solely with finances during the county's transition to performance-based government. The panel, she said, will meet at 1 p.m. on the day the Legislature meets each month.

The Legislature also approved an application for $200,000 in Environmental Protection Agency "brownfield assessment demonstration" funds.

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