Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana lashed out at several top county managers on Tuesday over bus service, saying that a legal maneuver they recommended to smooth-over union issues failed to address “horrific” problems with the county’s door-to-door buses for the elderly and disabled.
Vana, a critic of Metro Mobility, the company hired to run the county’s Palm Tran Connection bus service, took aim at a team of top staffers during Tuesday’s meeting, including Palm Tran director Chuck Cohen and Assistant County Administrator Shannon LaRocque.
Vana said she was not getting straight answers to questions about a recommendation designed to quell union complaints about the bus contractor.
“Dancing with the Stars has a few openings,” Vana said at Tuesday’s meeting. “I think some of you… should really apply.”
At issue was a vote to refile for a $14.7 million federal transit grant to change how the money would be distributed. The change — approved 6-1, with Vana dissenting — was meant to keep any of the money from going directly to Palm Tran Connection.
Under the original application for the grant in May, the county planned to spend $1.5 million of the total on the door-to-door bus service. The change, if finalized, will direct that money instead allow that money to the county’s general Palm Tran bus fleet for maintenance. Palm Tran Connection’s money would have to come from elsewhere in the budget.
Vana said Tuesday that she supported applying for the grant but that problems with Metro Mobility needed to be addressed before the changes were made.
“We have ongoing horrific conditions out there,” Vana said. “I would support this, if I thought that we were moving forward to get rid of this vendor.”
Vana’s comments came less than two weeks after she performed a spot check of Palm Tran Connection service. On Tuesday she ticked off a list of problems she said she has uncovered through spot checks and by talking to residents who use the service: drivers talking on cell phones; residents who aren’t picked up on time; buses without GPS systems; buses with flat tires.
“That is just the tip of the iceberg,” Vana told the commission. “I am hoping at some point in time we will decide that it is time, and we have to say that enough is enough.”
Several commissioners said the grant provides an important benefit to county residents. Issues with Palm Tran Connection should not be linked to the federal grant, they said.
“My question with this is, we have dealt with Metro Mobility,” Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said. “We are in the process of working this thing out…. I’m missing the point as to why we would even think that way.”
Commissioners are expected to discuss the county contract with Metro Mobility again next month.
The Palm Beach County Commission on Tuesday took the following action:
Lake Park marina: Tentatively agreed to allow Lake Park officials to reduce the number of parking spaces required on a 1-acre site near the town marina. The county required the site have 30 parking spaces when it agreed to give Lake Park $2.4 million in waterfront access bond money to buy the property. The new plan calls for 27 parking spaces, town officials said.
Historic properties: Approved county property tax exemptions for four historic properties in Palm Beach: The Breakers hotel on South County Road; The Everglades Club on Worth Avenue; a residential property at 691 North County Road, and a home at 300 Barton Avenue.