04/02/04 — Board hires firm to run Gateway

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Board hires firm to run Gateway

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 2, 2004 2:03 PM

Public transportation in Wayne County will soon be managed by a bus contracting company based in Missouri.

The Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority approved a proposal Thursday from Applebus Co. to manage the buses and vans that run in the city and the county. The financial details have yet to be worked out.

County Manager Lee Smith, City Manager Richard Slozak and County Attorney Borden Parker were given the go-ahead by the Gateway board to negotiate a contract with Applebus.

Applebus manages the transit systems in Edgecombe, Wilson and Nash counties.

Gateway began talking about hiring a company to manage the transit authority last summer. By the fall, the authority had put out a request for proposals, which was approved by the Federal Transportation Authority and the state Transportation Department.

Five companies indicated a preliminary interest in running the system, meeting with Smith and Slozak in October to find out more about the proposal request.

The board received proposals from three companies: Laidlaw, MV Co. and Applebus.

The two managers worked with the state and the federal system to come up with a point system when evaluating the proposals.

"We looked at the proposals for the best value," Smith said. "We weren't looking just at price."

Laidlaw was disqualified by Gateway and the state and federal systems because of the way it submitted its rates.

The other two companies were evaluated by various criteria, including financial stability, professional qualifications, previous experience and the ability to provide services.

"After we went through and evaluated, we sent it up to the state to see what they thought," Slozak said. "We tried to avoid the pitfalls from the past."

They found that Applebus had the ability to operate a system of Gateway's size and was successful in nearby areas.

One of the things that Applebus will bring to Gateway is a potential for regionalization, Smith said.

"This was their idea, but I think it's a good one because we move people out of the area, like Chapel Hill, Rocky Mount or Greenville," he said.

Smith said that Applebus already had ideas about how to improve and enhance the system, especially on the rural side.

Though the contract still needs to be negotiated, Slozak said the money they will pay the contractor is about what Gateway is currently paying in personnel costs.

All the current employees will stay on, Slozak said. "No one will lose their job."

Board member John Chance asked about employee benefits, and Slozak said the employees would receive better benefits under the new company.

"They'll get retirement benefits with the new company," Slozak said. "They don't get them now."

Gateway will still need to hire an executive director to act as a liaison between Applebus and the Gateway board, authority members said. The director would make a salary between $49,000 and $55,000.