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NOTA tells Oxford to put it in writing

September 21, 2011 - Put it in writing and submit it.

That was Orion Township Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel's direction to Oxford Township regarding its questions and concerns over the numbers behind the North Oakland Transportation Authority's (NOTA) ridership.

"NOTA has nothing to hide," said Van Tassel, who chairs the transportation authority board which met Sept. 15. "NOTA's got more records than you can shake a stick at."

Oxford Township officials are refusing to give NOTA a $4,407 funding increase for 2012 until their questions concerning Oxford riders are answered and figures are provided (see story on Page 1).

"I have no problem with having these NOTA figures audited," Van Tassel said.

However, Van Tassel wants Oxford Township to submit, in writing, exactly what ridership information it wants audited or double-checked, and who the municipality wishes to conduct this task.

"All this stuff can be documented," she said. "We would be happy to have whoever you want come in (and) double-check it."

Van Tassel expressed her displeasure with the Oxford Township Board for its refusal last week to agree to its contribution for next year per NOTA's funding formula.

"The part that disappoints me is that we've spent, over the last couple of years, a considerable amount of time in coming up with an interlocal agreement," she said. "The interlocal agreement sets forth the funding formula. The funding formula has been followed and Oxford Township apparently on an arbitrary basis . . . has decided what they're going to pay regardless of what the interlocal agreement says or the calculation of the funding formula."

"The funding formula is not a problem," retorted Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who serves on the NOTA board. "The Oxford Township Board agrees with that. It's strictly ridership. They're not convinced that is being accurately portrayed."

"This isn't anything new," said Oxford Township Trustee Buck Cryderman, who also serves on the NOTA board. "This came up last year and the year before."

Cryderman noted the issue "comes up frequently" and NOTA should "put it to rest."

One issue that was briefly addressed at the NOTA meeting was Oxford's concern over being double-dipped for its riders.

In other words, township officials are questioning whether there are any folks who are counted as Oxford riders for the purposes of NOTA's funding formula while simultaneously being funded by outside sources.

Brenda Wilson, who represents Training & Treatment Innovations, Inc. (TTI), one of NOTA's outside funding sources, indicated that her organization "is not paying per ride" when it makes its $200,000 annual contribution.

TTI, which provides mental health services to those with psychiatric and/or developmental disabilities, has a facility in Oxford called Clubhouse Inspiration, which is located at 1500 S. Lapeer Rd. in the Oxford Mills shopping center.

Van Tassel echoed Wilson's statement.

"TTI is not buying X number of rides," she said. "TTI isn't giving their people a coupon . . . That's not the way it works."

TTI's contribution is placed in NOTA's general operating budget to keep the buses and vans running for all those who require and are qualified for free transportation services. TTI's clients are among those who qualify for rides.

Even though Oxford, Addison and Orion townships contribute a combined $205,000 to NOTA each year, Van Tassel pointed out the municipalities are not paying 100 percent of the cost for the rides given.

"That's why we depend on the grants (such as TTI's contribution)," she said.

Van Tassel noted that not all TTI clients are from Oxford Township; many live in Orion Township.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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