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July 20, 2019

6/18/2019 7:30:00 AM
Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission shares audit update with Vilas County ADRC
Abigail Bostwick
Of The Lakeland Times

The process of obtaining and completing an independent audit of the Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission is going along as well as can be expected, the Vilas County Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) Committee was updated last week.

"We're well on the way to meeting the criteria," transit manager Roger Youngren said.

The commission has been looking at three possible audit firms and expects to meet a 30-day Oneida County deadline for signing a contract for the audit. The audit must then be completed 90 days after that.

The audit was essentially ordered by the Oneida County Administration Committee, which indicated the commission had neglected annual audits and potential financial matters. When the Vilas and Oneida County boards approved the commission's charter in 2015, it was with the call for an annual audit, but one has yet to be completed by either an independent agency or the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT).

Cost for the audit - estimated around $25,000 to $30,000 - was un-budgeted. The DOT does issue funding for such audits if it is budgeted ahead of time.

The commission has opted to work with the DOT, which can include up to 55% reimbursement of the cost, Youngren said to the ADRC Committee. Part of that is to finish such an audit in 90 days.

"We are under budget so far this year," Youngren reported, which also will help pay for the audit. "I'm confident we'll stay that way."

Once complete, reports will be issued throughout both counties and cover part of 2015 and all of 2016, 2017 and 2018, Youngren explained.

Meanwhile, efforts to find $240,000 for the four new buses is ongoing, Youngren indicated.

"I trust we'll find funding," Youngren said, indicating local match, ridership, donations and grants and some large donations from local organizations such as one recent one from Howard Young in Woodruff. A loan also would be involved from Peoples State Bank.

The Commission needs approval from both Vilas and Oneida counties to get that loan. Oneida County Board was recently forwarded a request for support.

"That's good news for us," Youngren said.

The current bus fleet is all 12 years or older, the manager said. Due to that age, many funds have been spent on maintenance and repairs, a costly ongoing matter, Youngren said. Business days, 10 buses operate.

"We struggled through this winter with maintenance. These rural roads here take a toll," Youngren said. "(New buses) are important for safety and maintaining a good image."

Any new buses would have a one-year warranty.

Younger said ridership is increasing with warmer weather and an influx of people in the area, which he expects to continue into the fall months. Rides are provided to around 3,300 to 4,000 people each month, many elderly and/or disabled seeking affordable and accessible transportation.

Also discussed were routes throughout the area and possible changes to better incorporate more remote areas of Vilas - such as Presque Isle, Boulder Junction and Winchester.

"We don't have service that far out; it's too far out," Youngren said. "It's way far out there for sure."

"There are parts of the county that don't demand service every day," said committee member Rich Schmalzer, who suggested a one-day route versus several or every day, as "they also are paying taxes."

Schmalzer suggested reviewing routes to include these residents, many of whom are elderly.

"I don't disagree with you," Youngren said.

The commission also is working on a rider survey asking passengers for input regarding what county they are from, age, if they have access to a car, how often they use the transit and if they know about connecting routes in addition to any personal feedback. Results are expected later this summer.

"My son rides the bus everyday," committee member Lori Siegler said. "That was his freedom ... it has been a godsend for my family."

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