Dauphin County Commissioners grill CAT, approve new meal vendor

Capital Area Transit management was grilled by Dauphin County Commissioners during the weekly meeting. Commissioners also approved a new vendor for elderly meals.

For the first time in recent memory, Capital Area Transit presented a cost-saving budget to Dauphin County Commissioners. CAT General Manager Bill Jones said a new labor agreement with the union helped save about $150,000.

“Right now, we are under a major transformation of CAT,” Jones said.

Commissioner Mike Pries, who has overseen CAT’s progress, said it is the best he’s seen in years.

“We see market improvement there,” he said.

But Commissioner Jeff Haste wasn’t too quick to pat CAT on the back. He asked several questions about relying on various funding sources, such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike toll funding that withered away.

“You’re in the same boat as the school district with spending money that they knew they weren’t going to have in the future,” Haste said. “That’s poor management.”

Most of the discussion remained on various ways to become more efficient. How to better manage the CAT fleet, curb wasteful repair costs, analyze under used bus routes, negotiate a reasonable sick leave program, and rising health care costs.

Jones was asked if management could conduct pension reform to provide an example at the top.

“Management has taken a beating,” he responded.

He claims management has had only one raise in four years, while unions have had raises every year. He said having a competitive pension and benefit program helps retain talent.

“We’re underpaid,” Jones said. “This is one of the few options that I have to maintain my proper level.”

Jones did not disclose his salary.

In the end, both sides agreed to figure out ways to cut costs without relying on funding streams to fill the gaps.

“I’m glad we’re really finally paying attention and seeing some progress,” said Commissioner George Hartwick III, “but I think there’s a lot of work that could be done.”

The commissioners also approved Nutrition Group Inc. to take over the former Meals on Wheels program run by the county. NGI will begin Dec. 1.

Commissioners said outsourcing the elderly meals program would save the county $300,000 a year. The commissioners warned top brass of NGI to make sure quality of service and meals remain top priority for the county’s senior citizens.

“I’m sure the minute that the meals aren’t at the level they expect, we’ll hear from them,” Haste said.

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