For years, the Fountain Valley Senior Center has contracted with Colorado Springs and El Paso County to provide transportation — twice-a-week grocery store runs, rides to doctor's appointments and the like — to older folks in parts of the county.
Thanks to a wrinkle in the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority language, all that funding has gone through the city. And this year, the city wants to do things differently: It's asking to amend the 2009 intergovernmental agreement by extending the Fountain Valley contract only through May, buying just enough time to put the service out for competitive bid, says Craig Blewitt, manager of the Springs' Transit Services Division.
"One of the recommendations of Mayor Bach's Transit Solutions Team," says Blewitt, "which did its work in the tail end of 2011 and the first of 2012, was to include competition in the contracting of specialized transportation services. ... All of our other services are allocated through a competitive process."
The proposed amendment, scheduled for a vote among El Paso County commissioners on Thursday, would allocate just $59,583. Last year, the contract was for $143,000, says Commissioner Dennis Hisey, a Fountain Valley board member. And both he and fellow Commissioner Sallie Clark say that this kind of change, this late in the annual budgeting process, could create big problems for the little county-run nonprofit, which serves about 500 clients, 60 and older, in the unincorporated part of the county east of Interstate 25.
"One of the concerns," says Hisey, "is that we, meaning the providers, would immediately begin to cut back and try to figure out how to make five months' funding last a year, which means we would quit providing some services."
Clark points out that unincorporated county taxpayers who've come to rely on Fountain Valley contribute $2 million annually to PPRTA's funds.
"If the system's broke, let's fix it," says Hisey. "But I don't think the system's broke."