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Supervisors mull future Pathways subsidizing

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | JUNE 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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Although recent heightened focus regarding Johnson County governmental relations has been over the looming possibilities of cutting half-fare and Sunday service for the SEATS para-transit service, cuts to an additional entity could also be on the horizon.

In response to growing budget constraints, county leaders mulled subsidizing the future of the Pathways Adult Day Health Center during a Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday. Some supervisors argued that subsides for the center may not be available in fiscal 2014.

The nonprofit organization, whose mission is to aid in the aging of county residents, is also working to prepare the county for addressing the needs the agency will face.

“I fully expect things to be incredibly tight for the same time next year,” Supervisor Rod Sullivan said.

SEATS Director Tom Brase said TMS Management Systems, the firm that manages a number of county entities, including Pathways, has had a contract with the county since Aug. 1, 2010. He said that the cost per trip for Pathways ridership under SEATS increased $1 from fiscal 2012, amounting to $1.40 per mile for each loading fee.

In addition to receiving county subsidies, Pathways also receives funding through the East Central Iowa Council of Governments — a branch of the Iowa Department of Transportation. Currently, billing expenses to Pathways are made by Johnson County.

Comparing the current unknown Pathways funding situations with SEATS, Supervisor Chairwoman Janelle Rettig said she was unsure whether adjusting ride fares is the right choice at this time.

The Iowa City City Council voted to approve a resolution signing a contract agreement with Johnson County for para-transit services — one that would eliminate half-fare rides and Sunday service — in a June 4 meeting.

“Pathways is a social service, and I didn’t know if we wanted to mess with fares, if it’s going to be too complicated,” Rettig said.

Her solution? Having the organization apply for community state block grant to help cover its operating expenses.

As discussions began wrapping up, one supervisor asked the board if it was being fair.

“I get concerned that we’re not doing the same for elderly and disabled,” Supervisor Pat Harney said. “We should try to be fair and equal to everybody.”

The supervisors moved to continue discussions during a June 20 meeting, with a drafted letter expected to be sent out in the coming days.

“We don’t anticipate doing this forever, but you need some time,” Rettig said of the pending Pathways letter. “This is a one-year promise, and it’s unlikely to happen again in a year.”


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