Grayson County commissioners heard from TAPS Public Transit General Manager Josh Walker on Tuesday about the progress the once-embattled transportation provider has made in the past year.
“I feel like TAPS has been positive strides in our communities where we serve and we are going to continue to serve to the best of our abilities,” Walker told the group.
He said TAPS had their recent triennial review from the Federal Transportation Authority that covered 17 areas of compliance.
“We had no financial findings,” he told commissioners.
That is a far cry, he said from the audits the organization underwent since restarting services under new management. Those audits covered financials from 2014 and 2015 and were related to decisions made by the previous management of TAPS. “There were multiple findings related to those,” Walker said.
“There were multiple findings related to those,” Walker said.
The FY 2016 audit, he said, showed only one item. “That was directly correlated to previous management as well,” he added. “We anticipate vast improvement and clean audits moving forward.”
The transportation provider, he said, moved about 18,000 people in Grayson County alone in 2016. Grayson County makes up nearly 70 percent of its services provided and it is the only urbanized population in the TAPS service area. In Grayson County, he said, TAPS can make two service calls an hour and that can include multiple riders.
He said 95 percent of the people who use TAPS in the county, could be categorized as elderly or disabled.
“We’ve seen more demand on the service as we are restoring ourselves,” Walker said, and sometimes that means people have to be told they can’t get a ride. He said about 90 percent of the denials are occurring in Grayson County.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said there is about a 30 percent demand that TAPS can’t meet.
“I think the point here is that there is a need for these services,” Magers said.
He said as the county and the local cities are beginning their budget work, now is the time for people to be thinking about what it will take to help TAPS meet that need. Magers told commissioners that the city of Sherman has set aside a raise of 5 percent in its contribution to TAPS for the coming budget. He said that is something he would like county leaders to talk about as they begin putting the proposed budget together.
Additionally, Magers said there is no secret the financial quagmire that TAPS found itself in a couple of years ago resulted in litigation because it was not able to pay everyone it owed including many small businesses in Grayson County.
“We have reached out very discreetly, for lack of a better term, to all non-secured creditors,” Magers said.
Over the past month, he continued, the TAPS has had success in settling a lot of that debt. Not everyone accepted TAPS’ offer, but many did, Magers said.
“It’s not as much money as TAPS would have liked to have paid them,” he added. But, he said, they did get paid something and most, he said, are happy with that.