York Co. OKs new buses for agency, council friction over EMS contract

jzou@heraldonline.comSeptember 4, 2013 

— The York County Council on Tuesday voted to allow York County Access, a low-cost transportation program, to replace its aging fleet of buses using a combination of state money and separate funding.

York County Access, which is run by the York County Council on Aging, provides discounted rides for residents within county limits to workplaces, doctors offices and other businesses.

Users of the program pay $2.50 per ride regardless of mileage, according to the program’s website, and schedule pick-ups and drop-offs in advance.

The state Department of Transportation awarded the county $220,000 to fund the transportation program, according to county documents. The Council on Aging is providing additional matching funds of $45,060 to replace its current fleet of four buses.

Under standard practice, buses are phased out when they hit 150,000 miles or five years of service, according to the county.

Per state regulations, the funds were given to the county and not directly to the aging council directly. The county has been the temporary recipient of those funds as well the holder of the vehicles’ titles, and provided the matching funds for the new buses.

Both funds and titles will be transferred to the Council of Aging, which will reimburse the county for the matching dollars.

Councilman Joe Cox voted against the measure, citing his concerns over the heavy subsidization of the program at the cost of taxpayers.

While the program is an initiative of the Council on Aging, adult residents of all ages can ride the buses and can be driven to a variety of locations.

Rezoning in Lake Wylie

The council also heard a preliminary proposal to rezone an area in Lake Wylie on Charlotte Highway, sparking some public debate with residents in the audience.

The proposal would rezone a 30-acre area in the bustling community for private development. The area is currently owned by the Harper family with a development company applying for the zoning action on its behalf.

Two residents of the surrounding area spoke publicly during the meeting to voice their opposition to the proposed rezoning and the developer’s intentions to create a new housing complex. Both residents cited Lake Wylie’s fast growth and inability to handle more vehicle traffic.

The council is slated to hear more specifically from the developer at an upcoming meeting later in the month.

Councilman Bruce Henderson, who represents the district where the rezoning is being proposed, said he was neither for nor against the development.

Friction over EMS contract

Tuesday’s meeting concluded with a feisty disagreement between council chairman Britt Blackwell and vice chairman Joe Cox over delays in amending the current emergency medical services contract that oversees ambulances.

Cox, who sits on the subcommittee that has been looking into the matter, was called out by Blackwell for “being out of order” when the two seemed to disagree over the timeline for putting the contract to a council vote.

The county has been trying to amend the contract, which specifies expected response times for ambulances. Response times in the county’s rural areas have been poor, Cox said, pointing to recent instances where medical help was delayed because ambulances were far away.

Blackwell strongly suggested the subcommittee speed up the process so that an amended contract could be viewed by the council in October, but Cox expressed concerns it was not enough time to deal with the complicated contract.

Jie Jenny Zou •  803-329-4062

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