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Fairbanks assembly rethinks transportation contract

Posted: May 6, 2012 - 12:14am

FAIRBANKS — A labor contract with the Fairbanks North Star Borough is getting a second look as members of the assembly fret it will cost too much.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the borough wants to wait on the results of a privatization study of the paratransit bus service, VanTran before it gives its final approval.

VanTran has long been a point of contention because of its high costs. It serves elderly riders and people with disabilities and costs the borough about $70 per ride. The assembly is considering a fee increase from $2 to $3, but it was widely opposed by transportation advocates who were concerned that it would adversely impact the limited budgets of its poor and at-risk users.

The contracts will go into effect July 1. The reconsideration of the transit contract is scheduled for June.

Borough presiding officer Diane Hutchison said she would like to see the results of the privatization study before approving a three-year contract that could potentially hinder some cost-cutting measures.

“The outcome of that study could significantly impact the monetary terms of the proposed contract,” she wrote in paperwork filed with the borough clerk’s office to reconsider the vote approving the agreement.

Borough human resources director Sallie Stuvek said transit and VanTran employees recognize the rising costs and had made wage and benefit concessions. VanTran employees agreed to a 10 percent pay cut and agreed to forgo cost-of-living pay increases.

“These employees recognize the concern and as part of the bargaining process made some pretty significant concessions,” she said.

Hutchison said she appreciates the cuts the union accepted but believes the assembly should at least look at the results of the study.

“I appreciate very much that they were willing to take a 10 percent cut,” she said, adding that if the study wasn’t almost completed. “I probably wouldn’t have moved for the reconsideration. But I really feel like it’s part of our duty since we got this (study) to take a look at it before we take a final vote on the (labor contract).”

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Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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