The Macon County Board of Commissioners gave Macon County Transit the go-ahead to apply for state and federal grants that will help keep the transportation service rolling smoothly for another year.
On March 8, commissioners unanimously approved a resolution stating their commitment of $39,922 in matching county funds. With the approval, the funding request will now be up for review by the state and federal Departments of Transportation, as MCT now begins their grant seeking process.
County funds would pay for 15 percent of the total amount sought to be matched by federal and state dollars, as part of the 2011-12 Macon County Community Transportation Program application. The program provides aid in coordinating existing Macon County transportation programs, which are minimally supported by passenger fares.
Eighty percent of the grant funds come from the federal government, with five percent coming from the state. The county is required to match 15 percent of the administrative portion of the funds (staff salaries, phone, insurances, uniforms, drug testing, etc.) That amounts to $189,531, which was the same amount applied for last year.
Kim Angel, director of Macon County Transit, said that with the funds the transit service can continue to provide adequate transportation for passengers. “We are public transportation,” she said. “We have a number of individuals, our core users, who use our service regularly.” Angel added that MCT’s service area reaches as far as Asheville, and largely aids elderly, handicapped and low income residents in reaching their destinations.
Angel estimated 300-400 different individuals consistently use MCT’s service throughout the course of a year. She said that MCT has travelled 288,899 miles and has had 34,526 boardings from July 1 of 2009 to June 30 of last year.
When she first started working for MCT in 1997, Angel said there were three vans and two drivers. “Right now, we operate 12 transport vans,” she said. “The entire operation has four full-time drivers and 12 part-time drivers.”
With the economic downturn of the last few years, Angel said more and more people have turned to MCT for its service. “You can look back to 2008 when the gas prices were really high in September and October. Our numbers were brimming, especially in October. We had over 3,000 boardings that month alone.”
“In the long run, our vision is growth, 15 to 20 years out,” said Angel. “Currently, given the economic conditions, and without knowing how federal or state monies will flow in the next couple of years, we are just looking to toe the line and hold what we’ve got.”
County commissioners showed their support of funding the service. Though Commissioners Bobby Kuppers, Ronnie Beale and County Manager Horton were not at the meeting, they did leave letters of support to be read at the meeting.
“… I would like to thank Ms. Angel for her hard work and the exceptional service her department has provided to the citizens of our county,” read Kuppers’ statement. “I fully support her efforts to attain grant money essential to the operation of Macon Transit. If I were there I would vote to allow Ms. Angel to pursue this important grant money.”
Macon County Commissioner Brian McClellan said that the amount of money Macon County has committed to pay pales in comparison to the amount of federal money that will match the county funds.
In the event that federal funds are not granted this year, then the county would reexamine their commitment, according to McClellan.
“Right now, what we get for our county outlay of dollars, is indisputably a good deal for the county,” he said. “At this point in time when we can get more bang for the buck at the county level, to me it’s pretty clear that this is a very good thing we need to look at,” said McClellan.