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The Suburbanite
  • Stark DD considering turning over transportation to SARTA

  • SARTA may be taking over the transportation of Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities clients.

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  • The Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities is looking at outsourcing the transportation of its adult and child clients to schools and workshops.
    Stark DD Superintendent Bill Green said he will ask his board Saturday to approve hiring a consultant to study having the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) handle the agency’s transportation. The study would cost up to $13,800.
    It would be up to RLS & Associates of the Dayton area to determine how much money Stark DD would save from transferring its transportation functions, 115 vehicles and 128 transportation employees — full-time and part-time bus drivers, riders, managers and mechanics — to SARTA, and if it could be done without any job losses or compromising the quality of transportation, health and safety for the Stark DD clients. Green expects RLS’s report by Aug. 24.
    “We’re looking to see if we can partner and do things differently and still provide a high level of service,” he said, adding that he’s held serious talks with SARTA since January.
    Green said transitioning Stark DD transportation duties to SARTA would take place over three years with Stark DD’s oversight. But before proceeding, his agency would have public meetings to discuss any possible changes.
    Green said it costs $4.6 million a year to bus 247 adults and 220 students to workshops and schools. That’s $2.3 million a year more than Stark DD receives from Medicaid and the Ohio Department of Education to provide transportation.
    Green said he notified the transportation employees and their union, the Support Staff Association, of his plans Friday. Stark DD’s contract with the union expires in May. The union’s president Ken Anderson could not immediately be reached for comment.
    SARTA executive director Kirt Conrad said transit agencies in at least six Ohio counties are providing transportation to their local DD boards. He said SARTA already provides ProLine service for about 600 special-needs passengers so they can get to school and day services providers.
    Conrad said if SARTA hires Stark DD transportation employees, SARTA would honor their union’s contract with Stark DD.
    He added that the Stark Educational Service Center has hired a consultant to study the idea of Stark County’s school districts coordinating with SARTA transportation, dispatching, maintenance and fuel and supply purchases.
    “The (school) buses are sitting idle six hours a day,” said Conrad. “They just take kids to school and from school. On top of that, they only use them six months (182 days) a year. It’s a very inefficient use of capital.”
    Public meeting
    Who: Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities
    When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday
    Where: Whipple-Dale Centre, 2950 Whipple Ave. NW
    Why: To consider hiring a consultant to study whether SARTA should handle Stark DD’s transportation needs and how much money it could save.
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    On Twitter: @rwangREP