County must act quickly to retain its bus service
Hundreds ride Plumas Transit buses daily and county officials are working to ensure that the service continues.
When Caltrans reviewed Plumas County’s contract with Plumas Rural Services to provide bus service, it found some issues. And now the county must act quickly to retain its state funding for the service.
“It means more than $100,000 for next year,” Public Works Director Bob Perreault said during an interview last week. “Without it most of the routes would be in jeopardy.”
Perreault first brought the matter to the Board of Supervisors’ attention last month and received authorization to put the service out to bid.
Caltrans’ review of the contract was part of the department’s review of such contracts throughout the region. Because Caltrans receives money from the federal government, which it passes through to local jurisdictions, those jurisdictions must follow federal regulations.
A Caltrans letter informed Perreault the state would not enter into a “contract with Plumas unless and until Plumas has a new, competitively bid, third party agreement that is approved by Caltrans.” The letter went on to “strongly advise Plumas County to immediately begin the process” of advertising and hiring for a contractor to operate the Plumas transit system.
Perreault said that a draft of the request for proposals, as well as a new draft contract, was given Feb. 7 to both County Counsel Craig Settlemire and Caltrans to review.
“We want to make sure we get everything approved,” Perreault said.
The last time the county issued a request for a transportation provider it received a dozen requests for information, and a third of those submitted applications.
At the time, Plumas Rural Services was the only local applicant among the four, and was the low bidder.
Plumas Rural Services was awarded the contract and has been providing the service since July 2, 2010, taking over from Alliance for Workforce Development, the organization that had operated the bus system for 18 years.
“It was a seamless transition,” said Michelle Pillar, the executive director of Plumas Rural Services, during an interview last week.
That was no small feat, since the hand-off happened over the July 4 weekend, the weekend of the High Sierra Music Festival, an event that puts a number of riders on the service.
In 2012, for example, July boasted 11,935 riders, compared to 4,844 in August and 4,858 in September.
Will Plumas Rural Services retain the contract?
Pillar hopes that her organization retains the contract for a variety of reasons including the desire to preserve local jobs.
Plumas Transit employs 10 people.
“Two years ago we hired the entire transit staff,” she said. And just three months ago, she hired a transit manager.
“There’s no guarantee that the new group will hire the staff,” Pillar said, referring to an alternate company receiving the contract.
But Pillar said she hopes it doesn’t happen and is confident that Plumas Rural Services will again be the low bidder as it was the last time.
“I want the contract,” Pillar said.
In addition to the 10 local jobs, the money that is allocated for administration stays in the county as well. During the last application process, companies from Redding and the Sacramento area also bid on the work.
The county owns the buses but contracts with a third party to provide the service.
Both Perreault and Pillar expect there will be multiple applications this time as well.
The new contract begins July 1.