Apple Bus Co. contract extension approved by Kalamazoo City Commission |

Metro Transit buses head out from the Kalamazoo Transportation Center.

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.

via Apple Bus Co. contract extension approved by Kalamazoo City Commission |

Werner to accept airport director post | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

As the Duluth International Airport prepares to open a new terminal at the beginning of next year, it’ll have a new executive director to oversee the opening.

Tom Werner, the operations director for the airport and the interim executive director, was offered the permanent executive director position by the Airport Authority during a meeting on Friday.

Werner said he’ll accept the position pending a final contract being approved by the board.

“All indications are that it will go very smoothly,” he said.

The Airport Authority voted 5-2 to offer the position to Werner, who has been at the airport since 1999.

“We had three finalists for the position who were all very well-qualified,” said Bob Pearson, the president of the board. “(Tom) has been at the airport for a very long time. I’ve been working closely with him and I’ve been impressed by his leadership capabilities and his ability to move the airport forward during the interim period.”

The board’s vice president, Mike Lundstrom, said Werner “had the skill set to move the airport forward.

“He’s really demonstrated to the board how solid his leadership qualities are,” he said.

Werner has been the interim director since June after the departure of Brian Ryks, who moved on to become director of the Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Before working at the Duluth airport, Werner served in the U.S. Army Reserve.

The other two finalists for the position were Sara Mau, director of operations at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, and Andrew Solsvig, executive director of Minot International Airport in North Dakota.

Pearson and Lundstrom said the new terminal still is set to open Jan. 14.

“Nothing has been delayed, and we are reasonably confident that will be the date,” Pearson said.

via Werner to accept airport director post | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

Union leaders: The way to revive the economy is to make unions more powerful |

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Karla Swift, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, have a joint column in the Detroit Free Press today on how to revive the economy. Believe it or not, their solution is to invest more money in projects that would benefit unions:

Our vision is different. It offers a solid program for a bright future. We can rebuild a healthy economy by reconnecting wages to productivity. The best way to do that is by protecting the right of working people to organize and bargain collectively through a union on the job.

The time for action is now. Our economy is sagging. To turn this slowdown into growth will require ambitious workforce training and huge investments in basic research in emerging technologies. We’ll need to rebuild crumbling roads, bridges and airports. We’ll need to restore U.S. manufacturing by reforming our trade policies. We need to end tax incentives for outsourcing and give states the financial help to hire back teachers, first responders and other public service workers.

Trumka and Swift no doubt sincerely believe these are the fixes the economy needs, but it is worth noting that these changes would also expand their organizations and make them more powerful, often at taxpayer expense.

“Workforce training and huge investments in basic research” is another way of saying “spending taxpayer money on favored industries.”  The infrastructure projects the column touts will most likely be unionized projects. The trade policy reforms pushed would protect unionized domestic industries  from competition on wages. The outsourcing provision would also protect union jobs. Finally, giving money to the states “to hire back teachers, first responders and other public service workers” would preserve public sector union jobs, now the majority of unionized jobs in America.

It’s hard to begrudge anyone who leads an organization from trying to advance that organization’s interests – that is what leaders are supposed to do. But people should also know when they are conflating the nation’s interests with their own.

via Union leaders: The way to revive the economy is to make unions more powerful |

Obamanomics: Almost 500,000 Federal Workers Make Over $100,000

According to a brand new book already striking fear in the hearts of public sector union bosses, America’s government workers may be the only men and women in the country still blessing their lucky stars for President Obama.

Mallory Factor’s Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind claims that government employees make more money, work less, retire earlier, have greater job security, and have more retirement security than their private sector counterparts. No wonder Washington D.C. is getting rich while the rest of America suffers.

Here’s the bottom line, according to Shadowbosses: government service is now more lucrative than the private sector. Federal government workers reportedly averaged more than twice the salary and benefits of an average private sector worker. Even more unbelievably, there are fully 459,016 federal workers who make over $100,000 in salary – one in five federal workers.

They earn like that because many of them are members of public sector unions. And those unions work hand in glove with politicians – particularly Democratic politicians like Barack Obama – to ensure friendly people on the other side of the bargaining table. The corrupt cycle works like this: Democratic politicians negotiate rich wages and benefits for union members with taxpayer cash; the union members then pay union dues; the unions use that money to re-elect the Democratic politicians. Everybody wins, except the taxpayers.

Government unions work to ensure that spending on government employees takes precedence over all other priorities at the federal, state and local levels. That’s why in California, state employees and pensions eat up an enormous chunk of the state budget, even though the state is essentially bankrupt.

In fact, the selfishness of the public sector unions is beginning to create a break with private sector union associates, who are recognizing that their tax dollars are going to support their cousins. As the country grows ever closer to the fiscal cliff, how many more federal employees earning $100,000 can we take? And with Obamacare slated to add another 21 million unionized workers, how many more will there be?

via Obamanomics: Almost 500,000 Federal Workers Make Over $100,000.