Smithfield Herald

Johnston County Commissioners OK funds for JCATS

As Johnston County continues to grow, so does the demand for better public transportation. To keep up, the Johnston County Area Transit System has asked the county for more money.

Neal Davis, executive director for Community and Senior Services in Johnston, presented to county commissioners a proposed request to the N.C. Department of Transportation for a major administrative and capital grant.

The grant application includes $293,376 for administrative expenses, including $194,520 for staff and $98,856 for other expenses such as utilities, vehicle insurance and tech support.

The request also includes $626,436 in capital funds, including $604,940 for 10 replacement vehicles and $21,496 for radio equipment, vehicle lettering, software, anti-virus protection and other expenses.

NCDOT is limited in the amount it can provide on the administrative side, leaving $96,052 to be funded locally.

At the commissioners meeting, Davis asked for a total of $202,705 in county support to be considered for the 2015-16 budget. He asked for a match of $106,653 up front, which commissioners approved.

County Manager Rick Hester recommended the board commit to the $106,653 and save discussion of the remaining $96,052 for budget deliberations early next year.

Johnston is the sixth fastest-growing county in North Carolina. Because of the population growth and the number of people who come here by way of the new Johnston Regional Airport, making sure JCATS functions well should be a priority, Davis said.

“We want to keep ground transportation certainly up to speed with what we’ve been doing for economic development growth,” he said.

Financial troubles are keeping JCATS from reaching its full potential, Davis said. The service denied 1,600 rides this year due to low funding, and it needs to replace 20 vehicles instead of the requested 10.

JCATS is also still using five replaced vehicles because it needs them, but NCDOT won’t allow it to use those old vehicles after December.

The transport service also employs 40 people and works out of a space that can fit about 20, Davis said.

“We’re on a trajectory that causes me some concern, and I want to stay ahead of it as much as possible,” he said.

JCATS will have provided more than 106,000 rides in Johnston this year. The number is expected to reach 112,000 next year. It provided 57,680 rides in 2006.

“As more and more people move into the county and as the county continues to grow, we’re hearing more that people are coming from elsewhere where public transportation options are growing,” Davis said.