KALAMAZOO, MI — Apple Bus Co. will continue to operate van transportation for Kalamazoo Metro Transit’s Metro County Connect program after a contract extension was approved by the Kalamazoo City Commission Monday.
City commissioners approved a two-year, $5,703,430 contract extension with Apple Bus Co., which operates van transportation for disabled and senior-citizen riders who cannot use local fixed-route bus service. An original three-year, $7,899,100 contract with Cleveland, Mo.-based Apple Bus Co. was approved in August 2009 and went into effect in November 2009.
The $5,703,430 contract extension includes an increase of 3.3 percent for the first year and 4 percent for the second year, according to a memo to city commissioners from City Manager Kenneth Collard and prepared by Billl Schomisch, the city’s transportation director. City staff think it’s a reasonable increase to cover “inflationary projections for fuel, labor and other costs related to this contract,” the memo states.
Funding for the contract will be provided through the Federal Transit Administration, Michigan Department of Transportation, fare revenues and local funding sources, and no city general fund dollars.
Commissioners approved the extension in a 4-1 vote. Mayor Bobby Hopewell and Commissioner Bob Cinabro were absent. Commissioner Stephanie Bell voted against the extension. After the meeting, Bell said she voted no because Apple Bus officials did not keep their initial promises, including keeping all Pride Care employees.
“I think they sold us a lot of hopefulness to get the contract passed,” Bell said of Apple Bus officials.
Bell said two employees had lost their jobs because of past convictions. The memo to city commissioners stated Apple Bus will adopt the city’s policy regarding the hiring of prior offenders.
Bell also said she has heard some complaints from residents about the service, similar to complaints others had against Pride Care.
“I felt like they lied to us a couple of years ago,” Bell said, noting she could not vote in favor of the contract.
Bell had raised concerns at a previous meeting about the contract.
“As I recall and as I understood the questions in that point of time, there were some impressions that former Pride Care employees had been promised jobs and never offered them or promised jobs and never got them,” City Manager Kenneth Collard said Friday.
Collard said another concern raised was the hiring of formerly convicted felons.
“As I recall there were a handful or so (of convicted felons) that they had hired,” Collard said. “Whether or not it was locally, I don’t recall the details.”
Apple Bus, which in 2009 submitted a lower bid than the former operators, Pride Care of Kalamazoo, had hired 51 former Pride Care employees and nine new hires. One former Pride Care employee was not hired by Apple Bus because of his driving history.
Before the city’s contract started with Apple Bus, the countywide demand/response service throughout Kalamazoo County was operated as two separate programs — Care-A-Van and Metro Van. Combining the programs made them more efficient, cost effective and manageable, according to the city memo.
Under the contract with Apple Bus, the lump sum annual cost is at $21.10 per passenger trip, “an all-time low.” according to the city memo. Annual passenger trips in 2011 numbered 128,397, an “all-time high,” it said.
City commissioners were set to consider the contract at the beginning of October, but members of the Kalamazoo County Transportation Authority requested it be delayed so they could provide input. KCTA is working with the city to transfer Metro Transit into a county-wide authority.
Last month, representatives from the the city of Kalamazoo, the county and KCTA said they would meet to develop a new agreement.
The KCTA board was not required to approve the contract extension.