Depending on a decision today scheduled to be made by the public agency that oversees Nevada County’s transit services, a Washington-based company could take over the transportation of elderly or disabled residents as soon as the beginning of July at a cost that is at least $50,000 more than originally proposed.
For the last 13 years, the local nonprofit Gold Country Telecare has provided those transit services.
However, recipients of Federal Transit Administration funds are required to provide an opportunity to compete for contract awards at “appropriate intervals of time,” according to staff.
To follow this requirement, the county issued a Request For Proposals in October 2012, which elicited two responses from El Camino Charters and Paratransit Services.
Gold Country Telecare President Rick Hansen told the Transit Services Commission at its March 20 meeting that his company did not bid for the project because of deficiencies in the county’s Request For Proposals.
“If you will recall when the RFP process started, we had many questions we felt needed to be answered to make a response,” Hansen said. “When time went by and no answers were coming, we felt we had to give you notice that we could not bid based on those concerns.”
After El Camino Charters’ proposal was deemed nonresponsive, the Transportation Review and Selection Committee deemed Paratransit Services’ proposal technically strong, although its bid was higher than the $1.2 million available.
Nonetheless, staff still recommended that the county switch to Paratransit at the March meeting, expressing confidence that ensuing negotiations could bring down the cost, said Steve Castleberry, director of Nevada County Public Works, in his report to the commission.
On that recommendation, the committee directed staff to negotiate with Paratransit Services. The decision before the commission today is whether to approve the contract crafted based on those negotiations, including a $1,253,212 price tag for Paratransit Services to take over the service, which Castleberry noted was slightly over the proposed budget.
“The county is moving forward with a paratransit vehicle procurement plan that will be implemented over the term of the new contract,” Castleberry said. “As paratransit vehicles are purchased, the actual cost of the paratransit contract will decrease.”
At an estimated cost of $200,000, the county’s transit team has already begun to procure four disability-accommodating vehicles through specially qualifying Prop 1B state funds.
“We think we can get some funding for full buses over the life of the contract” that would bring down the cost with Paratransit, Castleberry said. “We have not applied yet.”
Other long-range factors to reduce contracting costs include housing the paratransit contractor at the future corporation yard or transit facility, a fuel-share program and increased service integration, Castleberry said. In the shorter term, county staff will be working with the contractor on an ongoing basis to identify where cost efficiencies can be addressed and implemented.
“We’ll adjust our budgets,” Castleberry told The Union by phone Wednesday.
Looking at Gold Country’s $800,000 services versus the proposed more than $1.2 million Paratransit contract is like comparing apples to oranges, Castleberry noted.
For one thing, the county garnered a $200,000 grant to re-expand Saturday services that will increase the 16,000 hours of service Gold Country provided to 17,600 hours, Castleberry said.
“Obviously, we want to provide as much service as possible,” Castleberry said.
The proposed five-year contract contains an annual increase tied to California’s Consumer Price Index, limited to no more than three percent and no less the one percent, beginning July 1 and expiring June 30, 2018. If approved, the contract can be extended for two two-year periods by the Transit Services Commission and the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
Castleberry anticipates that Paratransit will be able to provide full services by July, he said, but added that if they are not able to, the county would likely take up Gold Country’s offer to help fill gaps and facilitate a smooth transition. However, Hansen’s offer would not be free, he told the commissioners in March.
The county’s counsel has reviewed the draft contract and is scheduled to make a final review following today’s meeting, Castleberry said in his report.
Decisions on this topic are expected during the Transit Services Commission’s meeting today, which is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisor’s Chambers at the county’s Eric Rood Government Center, located at 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.