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Board to pay $500K debt

Transit agency owes money to its ex-contractor

WARREN — The Trumbull County Transit Board has paid approximately $500,000 of the debt it owes to its former contractor and expects to finish paying off funds in the first few months of 2021.

In May, the transit board owed longtime Community Bus Services about $2.3 million for services rendered in 2018 and 2019. The board was unable to draw the federal funding set aside for the transit board because of issues the Federal Transit Administration wanted the board to fix first. Those problems were sorted out, and Mike Salamone, Trumbull County transit administrator, is able to start withdrawing the funds, but he has to divide the debt and submit them for approval in stages before the Warren company can be paid, he said.

Salamone said about $500,000 has been withdrawn so far, leaving about $1.8 million. A nearly $800,000 payment is going through the FTA’s approval process now, and two other withdrawals will be conducted to finish off the payments, Salamone said.

After the money from the FTA comes through, a $47,000 balance will remain, but the transit board expects to pay that from the $108,000 the board has in the bank.

It takes between four to seven weeks for the FTA to give its approval, he said.

The total balance should be paid off in January or February, Salamone said.

“This is everything,” Salamone said.

The FTA no longer will allow the transit board to coordinate services without having the money upfront to pay its contractors. Meanwhile, the transit board hasn’t been providing transportation itself.

So, about $80,000 in state money set aside for the county was distributed through other contractors in a transit program coordinated by Salamone through the county commissioners, instead of the transit board.

Transit board members on Thursday voted to help the commissioners continue the program by allocating about $31,000 in fares collected in 2019 to keep the county program going with the companies the county is contracting.

“The simplest way is to keep it where it is at,” said Duane Hennen, the newest member of the transit board and the new chairman.

The program costs about $8,000 per month for 400 rides per month, Salamone said.

The amount will help the program continue through the year, and Salamone said it is expected to decrease in use as more riders shift toward services offered by the Western Reserve Transit Authority, Salamone said. WRTA is expanding its service in Trumbull County.

The board members also voted for Martha Yoder to be named vice chairwoman. A seventh seat on the board has not yet been filled by county commissioners.

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