Summit Stage drivers, citizens petition against privatization
A contingent of bus drivers and private citizens has gathered nearly 50 signatures on a petition opposing the proposed privatization of the publicly funded Summit Stage system.
Summit County officials confirmed plans to explore the option of handing off the management of the system to the private sector earlier this year, in the wake of ongoing budgetary problems and the departure of longtime transit director John Jones.
A contender for the contract is First Vehicle Services, which currently handles maintenance operations on all county vehicles.
Stage drivers opposed the proposal from the start, but petition administrators say it was a private citizen who suggested they begin collecting signatures. The online petition, posted on Change.org, states the Summit Board of County Commissioners and staff need to “do their jobs,” and “oversee the operations around the county and hold people accountable.”
“Handing a taxpayer-funded monopoly to a private company will not create a more efficient operation,” stated Frisco resident Mark Felber, who signed the petition last week.
County officials said a shift to a private operator would be virtually unnoticeable to riders and no jobs or pay would be lost in the transition. All current Stage employees would be brought on to work under the private contractors.
The final decision, which will rest with the county commissioners, will likely hinge on money and customer service, but assistant county manager Thad Noll said they will take the petition into account.
“Anytime we get a petition, those things are taken for whatever they are by the commissioners,” Noll said. “The validity of the petition will weigh in to it as well, so whether the commissioners feel like people were signing something that was factual or not factual.”
Summit Stage is funded by a countywide sales tax and currently managed by a county staff and a volunteer board of directors.
If the system were privatized, high-level orchestration of operations and routes would remain under control of the existing transit board and a system director. But the specifics of the transition, if it happens at all, are not yet determined and even some transit leaders aren’t convinced it’s the best option.
“I’m personally not in favor of it right now,” transit board president Kent Willis said. “I’m not sure it’s going to save the county and I think there’s a lot of consequences that have not been analyzed and determined whether it really benefits the Stage. I’m not convinced that it’s going to be beneficial to the overall system.”
Willis said he, too, might consider signing the petition.
For every signature garnered, Change.org sends an electronic form letter to several county leaders stating the sender does not want to see their tax dollars going to a non-local company and asking that the Stage be improved by better oversight.
County commissioners have not yet decided whether to contract out transit operations or selected any single company, local or not, for the job.
A request for proposals from interested businesses could go out by summer.
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