September 16, 2014

Elyria
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Transit director jumped the gun

ELYRIA – The county plans to cut Lorain County Transit bus service, but exactly what those cuts will be hasn`t been determined.

Assistant Lorain County Administrator Ron Twining said legal notices that appeared in local newspapers – including in The Chronicle-Telegram`s May 2 edition – to announce that the cuts would go into effect on June 1 were premature.

“We need to talk to the commissioners first,” Twining said.

The cuts outlined in the legal notices slashed evening hours for most routes Monday through Friday and completely eliminated Sunday service.

Commissioner Ted Kalo said cuts are necessary, but the commissioners have yet to even review any of the proposed cuts. The cuts announced in the legal notices are similar to what he expects will be recommended to the board by LCT Interim Director Rich Enty.

“He might have jumped the gun on those cuts, but until the commissioners review them, it`s not official,” Kalo said.

Commissioners had been weighing similar cuts last year, but avoided them with a $645,000 cash infusion from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.

That was a one-time shot in the arm that`s unlikely to be repeated this year, Commissioner Lori Kokoski said.

County Administrator Jim Cordes estimated the county will need to trim about $550,000 from Transit`s approximately $6 million budget, most of which is funded through state and federal funds. But the county also contributes and is facing its own budget shortfalls.

The county laid off more than 75 employees, including sheriff`s deputies, after the commissioners imposed $6 million worth of cuts across all county departments late last year. A 0.5 percent sales tax increase went into effect in April, but must be approved by voters in November to become permanent.
Kokoski said while Transit is important, the county simply can`t afford to put as much money into it as she would like.

“(The money) is going to go to safety first and the rest of the mandated services,” she said.
Commissioner Betty Blair said while the Transit cuts haven`t been approved by commissioners yet, the legal notice notes says the cuts are subject to change by the commissioners.

She said she`s not sure what those cuts will be.

“I`m waiting for them to supply me with information,” she said.

Twining said he is trying to figure out why Enty put the legal notice out when cuts haven`t been approved.

“It was probably an honest mistake,” he said.

Enty did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.