Despite audit issues, RTA OKs $200,000 to defray Silver Key transportation costs

       Silver Key Senior Services won approval from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) Board Dec. 13 for $200,000 in funding for its door-to-door bussing service in 2007.
       The amount is half the $400,000 the Westside-based agency for the elderly received in 2006, but Acting CEO Mary Cathryn Haller said she was pleased, even though Silver Key had hoped for the same amount again. “Every little bit helps,” she said. “It means we don't have to take as much from other programs.”
       The motion, by Colorado Springs Mayor/RTA board member Lionel Rivera, also left open the possibility of additional funds between now and March. The wait is to give Silver Key the chance to hire a permanent CEO (the process started several weeks ago) and finish tightening up ridership procedures in response to a critical city audit. One problem noted in the audit was actual numbers of riders. Last year, Silver Key had estimated it would provide 90,000 trips, with the possibility of increasing to 100,000 in the larger service area that the RTA required along with the $400,000 stipend. But since developing a better system of tracking these numbers, Silver Key has determined it will only run 60,000 trips in 2006, according to data supplied to the auditor.
       Before Rivera's motion, at least three RTA board members had expressed some sentiment toward limiting the Silver Key stipend to $100,000, as recommended by the board's Citizens Advisory Committee. The thinking was that the agency needed to look harder for other funds and possibly ask its riders to pay more.
       Using mostly volunteer drivers, Silver Key provides its specialized transportation throughout most of western El Paso County to anyone age 60 and over who requests it, with no requirement to prove monetary need or handicaps. Riders, who commonly use the service to go shopping or see their doctors, are asked to pay $1 a ride, but no payment is required.
       While making his motion, Rivera questioned why the RTA was so ready to cut back Silver Key while helping subsidize FREX, the express bus to Denver that benefits people living outside El Paso County who are less likely to be poor. “It seems unfair,” he said.
       His motion passed unanimously. The second $100,000 will come from Mountain Metro Transit reserves.
       Another step Haller hopes to take between now and March is to educate the RTA board on her agency's service. During a meeting break after the Silver Key agenda item, she thanked the individual RTA board members for their vote and offered to set up a time in which they could ride to the Silver Key building on Bott Avenue in an agency van.

Westside Pioneer article