Citizen group chastises RTA’s Silver Key funding plan

       Silver Key needs to meet with an advisory committee in its quest to merit the $330,000 the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) board has agreed to additionally budget this year for the non-profit agency's specialized transportation for elderly citizens.
       That was the consensus direction at an RTA board meeting Jan. 11 that got heated at one point. The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), which was appointed by the RTA board last year to fulfill the RTA ballot-issue requirement for grassroots involvement in the transportation-spending effort, had voted to express various concerns about the Silver Key expenditure at its Nov. 30 and Jan. 4 meetings. Joe Vaccaro, a member of the committee, told the board Jan. 11 that he views the committee's role as an “oversight” of the board, which consists of elected officials from participating local governments.
       “The electorate does not trust elected officials,” Vaccaro asserted, adding that the board's Silver Key vote, by not reflecting the CAC concerns, “was a direct slap in the face to us and the electorate.”
       Colorado Springs Vice-Mayor Larry Small, an RTA board member, reminded Vaccaro that elected officials like himself answer to the electorate, not appointed people like Vaccaro. He also corrected Vaccaro on the word “oversight” and asked him in the future to couch statements about public trust in terms of his own opinion, “not as if it were fact.”
       Board Chair Wayne Williams answered the five main criticisms of the board's Silver Key action, summarizing that “just because we don't always follow the advice (of CAC) doesn't mean we don't respect the advice.”
       Regarding CAC's philosophical starting point - itemized in a memo that questions appropriating the $330,000 as “a violation of the intent of the Pikes Peak RTA” - Williams said, “I think providing transportation services to seniors falls within the intent of the RTA.” He added that the board was already planning to provide $70,000 to Silver Key this year and has stipulated that the agency's publicized bookkeeping problems - also criticized in the CAC memo - need to be set straight before it can have the extra money.
       Another board requirement (from Dec. 14) is that Silver Key expand its service area beyond just Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. CAC's memo indicated no knowledge of this.
       Silver Key provides an estimated 80,000 trips a year for seniors. CEO John Morse had asked for the additional $330,000 for RTA transit funds to ease the load for private donors, who currently cover more than 70 percent of the entity's annual $1 million specialized-transportation costs.
       One more CAC frustration, stated in the memo, was that it had invited Silver Key to sent a representative to its Jan. 4 meeting, but none came.
       Asked about this by Williams, Morse conceded that he had talked to someone from CAC, but never got a written invitation and as a result there was “no firm date on my calendar.” He added, addressing the CAC delegation, “You should make the invitation in writing if you're going to make the allegations that you have.”
       Williams later offered an apology to CAC for not making it clear to Morse at the Dec. 14 RTA board meeting that he needed to go to the next CAC meeting.
       The new schedule calls for Morse to attend the CAC meeting, Feb. 1, at which he must try to satisfy its members about the Silver Key situation.
       At the Jan. 11 RTA meeting, Morse told the board that, in response to the expanded-area directive, Silver Key is looking at adding service to Falcon, Black Forest, Gleneagle, Woodmoor and Cimarron Hills. But that would require hiring another driver, he explained; the overall new cost, including salary, gas and bus maintenance, would be about $50,000.
       The board would also like to see some evidence of strong cooperation with the Fountain Valley Senior Center (which offers similar services in a different area of the county), Williams said.
       Sallie Clark, county commissioner and RTA board member, asked whether it wouldn't be wise to first survey such outlying areas to see how many seniors might actually use the Silvey Key service, in which seniors are taken directly to destinations such as shopping centers or doctors' offices.
       Clark, as well as Manitou Springs Mayor Marcy Morrison and City Council member Jerry Heimlicher (both RTA board members) lightly scolded CAC for coming on too strong in its Silver Key comments. Remarking that there were items on the memo “that aren't substantiated,” Clark said, “You have to be careful how you approach it.”
       Regarding Vaccaro's comments, Heimlicher said, “You were basically accusing us of trying to violate the public trust, and that's pretty insulting.”

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