WRTA and Niles disagree over bids

The board couldn't act because it lacked a quorum.
& lt;a href=mailto:milliken@vindy.com & gt;By PETER MILLIKEN & lt;/a & gt;
YOUNGSTOWN -- The controversy over expanded public transit service in Trumbull County erupted in the Western Reserve Transit Authority board of trustees' meeting, but the issue remains deadlocked.
State Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, asked WRTA officials Thursday to withdraw a protest against Niles' bidding procedure for the proposed Niles-Trumbull Transit Service. This, he said, would let the door-to-door service start for more of the county's elderly and disabled residents.
"If WRTA would simply withdraw its protest, we could simply move on," Dann said. "The contracts could be awarded to the lowest and best qualified bidder, and the work can be done, and people can start being transported, maybe within 10 days or two weeks.
"The problem is, we've got people without wheels right now. I want to resolve this problem so that my constituents can get to work and to the doctor."
Call for new bids
But Alan Kretzer, the WRTA's lawyer, called for Niles to restart the bidding procedure. He also called attention to the Federal Transit Authority's decision that Niles must consider WRTA's protest under the city's protest procedures.
"We couldn't get the information to file a responsive bid," Kretzer objected. "Throw out the bids and rebid it in a fair process."
James Ferraro, WRTA executive director, said, "If the field's level, we can compete. You've got to know what kind of equipment you need, what kind of distances you're going to travel, how many numbers [of passengers] you're going to be dealing with."
Michael Bosela, WRTA board president, said, "We want to be there to make a responsive bid. We're in the business of moving people. We feel we're qualified to do that best in this area."
The WRTA board was unable to act officially Thursday because it lacked a quorum. Only Bosela and newly appointed board member Raymond Brown attended.
Several townships, villages and cities in Trumbull County banded together last year in an attempt to start a one-year pilot transit program, and secured $400,000 in federal grants and local matches. The sole bidder then was Community Busing Services.
When WRTA filed its protest over the bidding procedure with the FTA last November, some participating jurisdictions, including Liberty, considered withdrawing money they had designated for the project.
Dragging on
"This process is starting to drag on so long that some of the communities that we had on board to be a part of this system want their money back," said Mark Hess, Niles city engineering and development coordinator.
WRTA already provides fixed-route bus service to Liberty Plaza and along the Girard, Niles and Warren corridor to the Kent State University branch campus in Champion. People with physical disabilities are eligible for door-to-door WRTA service within three-fourths of a mile of any fixed WRTA route.
& lt;a href=mailto:milliken@vindy.com & gt;milliken@vindy.com & lt;/a & gt;