Source: Sherman Publications

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Twp. withholds extra funds until NOTA gives ridership info

by CJ Carnacchio

September 21, 2011

Before Oxford Township forks over a $4,407 funding increase to the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA), the municipality wants an audit of the ridership.

"If they want the extra money, they'll justify it," said township Treasurer Joe Ferrari.

Last week, township officials voted 5-2 to allocate $79,500 in funding to NOTA for 2012 (see NOTA's response below.)

NOTA originally requested the township pay $83,907 as its contribution for next year's operations based largely on the fact that the 2010 U.S. Census reported the township's population (including the village) increased from 16,007 to 20,526.

The communities that fund NOTA, which include Oxford, Addison and Orion townships, do so based on a formula that utilizes population (50 percent) and ridership (50 percent) to calculate each's monetary contribution.

Township officials are refusing to pay the increase unless NOTA provides detailed numbers concerning Oxford riders.

"Everybody knows what we want," Ferrari said. "That will force the issue."

NOTA provides free rides for local senior citizens, physically and mentally disabled individuals, and folks participating in a welfare-to-work program. In 2010, NOTA gave 40,264 rides and of those, 20,499 were attributed to people from Oxford.

Township officials want to know how many, if any, of its riders are currently being funded by other sources such as grants from the federal Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program. JARC's purpose is to fund transportation for welfare recipients and low-income people seeking to obtain and maintain employment.

"I have no problem paying for folks that aren't covered through a grant," Ferrari explained.

But if NOTA is counting those riders who are already funded by outside sources when it calculates the township's annual contribution, then Ferrari views that as double-dipping.

"We want figures that show true Oxford Township ridership without outside grant funding sources," he said.

Ferrari, who used to oversee NOTA's predecessor, the Oxford-Addison Transportation Authority (OATA), said it should not be difficult to provide the township with these detailed numbers.

"I did this when it was OATA," he said. "It's not this hard. It really wasn't."

Ferrari also expressed a concern about the possibility of some NOTA riders having a different mailing address than the township they actually live in.

For instance, there are people who technically reside in Addison Township, but have Oxford mailing addresses. These same mailing addresses are what appear on their driver's licenses and state identification cards.

Ferrari wasn't the only official with concerns about NOTA.

Trustee Sue Bellairs was upset that NOTA, in her opinion, doesn't do a more efficient job of scheduling rides, so there are not occasions, as she's witnessed, where an entire bus is used to transport a single person.

"That's what I get upset about," she said. "It's like your private bus service. That's what it's become."

Bellairs believes NOTA should have scheduled trips to places that its riders frequent, like Meijer, so it can transport multiple people with fewer rides.

"They don't make any effort whatsoever within NOTA to put those rides together," she said. "I've never seen anything where they tried to come up with a better system for their rides."

Bellairs made it clear she's "not opposed to NOTA," she just has concerns over the way it's operated.