GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will take over as transportation coordinator for disadvantaged residents who currently use the Clay County Council on Aging’s Clay …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Jacksonville Transportation Authority will take over as transportation coordinator for disadvantaged residents who currently use the Clay County Council on Aging’s Clay Transit service.
Speaking to the Dec. 11 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, Steve Holmes, State Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged executive director, said the state agency only takes charge if there’s a chance that seniors may not be able to access critical services. The decision to choose JTA came from an emergency procurement process that started last week.
JTA will contract the services to MV Transportation and remain the coordinator until June 30, 2020. The council’s public Flex Lines will cease by the end of this month. The transportation disadvantaged services will change hands Jan. 2.
“I’m pleased to say MV Transportation is hiring those drivers from the Council on Aging,” Holmes said.
The move comes after months of reports from the Council to the BCC in which officials reported losing funds due to significant drops in ridership. In the wake of the financial troubles, the Council’s chief financial officer resigned and the Council’s board also fired its former executive director.
Other parts of the transition, less than a week in, are more complicated. While Holmes said the top priority was taking seniors to medical appointments, he said a challenge for JTA and other parties was to work with federally-funded senior service agencies that transport seniors, such as the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
“There will be challenges with transportation for seniors getting to their senior services,” Holmes said, referring to that process as “Phase II.”
Holmes said the Transportation Disadvantaged trust fund allocated about $850,000 for the transportation disadvantaged services. The allocation is determined by a formula in which miles and trips in the county are the key component. Holmes said that allocation is likely to decrease by about $250,000 in July of next year. With the elimination of Flex Line ridership, he added the number of trips taken this year will affect the trust fund allocation two years from now.
“They will decrease for a couple years before they increase,” Holmes said.
Holmes said immediately installing transportation disadvantaged services was essential and hopefully a building block towards reestablishing Flex Lines in the county.
Commissioner Mike Cella said it was a positive step to get everything on the table. Cella said the most important thing was to have an experienced entity with resources like JTA as a provider.
The Council on Aging has taken hundreds in thousands of dollars in losses in the past few years due to a lack of ridership, staff turnover and maintenance costs.
ElderSource, a state agency that provides funding and grants to senior care services, pulled its contracts with the Council after fears the Council wouldn’t meet payroll. The senior services contracts were switched to Duval County-based agency Aging True starting Jan. 2, with officials from both organization promising little change in jobs or the services provided.
“The immediate need is the senior services we need to cover, and other things can be worked out as we get to that point,” Cella said.
Commissioner Wayne Bolla mentioned a potential subsidy of an Uber or Lyft-type ride sharing service. Holmes said there is a pilot program in Pinellas County for on-demand rides and he would give commissioners more information. Now, the race is on to review funding agreements before the new transportation and senior care coordinators take charge.
“We’re looking at the options we have,” Holmes said. “I’ll be more than happy to work with (the commission) on that.”
Holmes’ presentation was only an update on the progress of issues impacting the Council and did not require a BCC vote on the matter he discussed.