Guilford to review van contract

Mar. 25, 2013 @ 05:18 PM

There could be a new look soon for the county’s van service for needy residents.
Commissioners decided in a work session recently to start work on a new contract to offer the business to other companies if  the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation follows through with a  90-day stop-service notice. 
PART has had financial problems operating the service used largely by Medicaid patients for doctor visits. PART took over the county contract in November 2011 after Guilford’s previous provider stopped service abruptly.
“We have enough vehicles now that we could use for the Medicaid service,” said Myra Thompson who supervises the service for the Department of Social Services. “I have heard from a lot of companies who want to bid on this contract.  We could use smaller vendors in certain areas to take people to the kidney centers where many of the passengers go.”
With a new contract, the Board of Commissioners also could change the reimbursement plan. The service needs 5,500 service hours per month to break even. When ridership is down, the service loses money, according to PART officials. The county pays PART a maximum of $46 per hour, but shorter trips are cheaper.  
Last month, Scott Rhine, PART executive director, told commissioners that a shift to per-ride compensation would be “more efficient.”  Other passengers who ride the vans to senior  recreation and enrichment centers pay $8 per trip. That service is supported by a government grant for seniors.
Democratic Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, a PART trustee, said PART officials also have discussed evaluating the agency’s mission.
“We may have to look at working with someone else,” she said.
PART also has asked commissioners for more money. Late last year, commissioners donated $394,000, and last month PART asked for $24,800 more for the van service. PART officials do not want to use money collected from other services and grants to balance the budget of the county-affiliated service, Rhine said.
None of the eight commissioners attending the workshop wanted to pay PART the money.
“The question is not out there,” said Republican Commissioner Bill Bencini of High Point. “We should not raise the claim to credence.”
“We do not owe this,” Thompson said.
Commissioners do not have to pay PART for any expenses not listed in the contract, said County Attorney Mark Payne.