Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shuttle for county employees eliminated

On yesterday's AM 1370 Afternoon Edition, the topic of the shuttle bus for county employees came up. For a little background, when county employees lost the ability to park in a lot on Kirkwood Avenue a short walk from the county courthouse, the County Commissioners allowed county employees to park behind the Convention Center. Because the walk was a bit farther than the previous lot, they also provided a shuttle bus to take employees from the parking lot to the courthouse and the Justice Building.

When the shuttle was first implemented, I thought it was, for the most part, a waste of county resources. Given the sedimentary lifestyle most Americans lead, it would do most county employees a lot of good to walk a few blocks to and from their cars each day. I worked for county government for just under three years, and had no trouble walking from the parking lot to the courthouse. Since I enjoy walking, I even walked to work a few times. The courthouse is nearly two miles from my home.

Now, there are some employees who have real difficulties walking the distance from behind the Convention Center to the courthouse or Justice Building. For those who truly need assistance going from the parking lot to the building, county government should find some way of providing a reasonable accommodation to those employees. I'm not sure that requires spending $26,000 per year on a shuttle bus.

Many county employees already walk in the morning and evening anyway, and others have arranged for alternative spaces other than behind the Convention Center. I do not think the loss of the shuttle bus will lead to "musical cars" around the courthouse square, as has been predicted. My prediction is that some county employees will grump about losing the shuttle but will adjust to walking from the Convention Center to the Courthouse.

I know that some county employees are unhappy about is the County Council's chosen priorities for the budget. It rubs some employees the wrong way to see county government spend $100,000 on grants to various social service agencies around Monroe County instead of spending some of that money on county employees. It would be a welcome gesture for either the Council or the Commissioners to take $26,000 out of the social services fund and use it to fund the shuttle.

There is also a cumulative effect going on here, and some county employees feel picked on. There will be no raise for county employees in 2007, and one elected official said at the Friday Lunch Bunch a couple weeks ago that insurance premiums will go up again next year. For the record, this will mean that county employees will see insurance costs go up and wages remain stagnant for two of the last three years, actually seeing a net decrease in pay. The County Council, starting with Sophia Travis, needs to examine their priorities and make sure the essential functions of county government are taken care of first, starting with taking care of county employees.