Bill would let new DCTA members aboard

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State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has filed legislation to allow the Denton County Transportation Authority to increase representation on its board of directors and to add clarity to some contract labor language.

Senate Bill 948 would ensure that cities assessing sales tax or exercising another financing agreement with DCTA have a seat on the board. The bill would also authorize DCTA to contract for fare enforcement officers and give it the same purchasing procedures as other governmental agencies.

While there are a number of things before legislators this session, DCTA officials remain confident the bill will pass.

Board membership is one of the larger issues the transportation authority has discussed in recent months. SB 948 would make it so any new town or city that elects to fund the transportation system has a seat at the table. As the rules stand today, if a small city jumps on board financially, it wouldn’t necessarily have direct representation on the board.

The board now contains eight representatives from cities with more than 17,000 residents, three from cities with less than 17,000 (though one is vacant), two from unincorporated portions of the county and one from Denton County at-large.

Denton, Highland Village and Lewisville have representation in the large-cities group on the board. They also are the only three cities that have dedicated a portion of their sales tax to fund the system.

Officials in Lake Dallas have expressed interest in joining.

The agency continues to show strong improvement in ridership numbers.

In the first quarter of the 2013 fiscal year, the agency carried 941,629 people on the entire system, compared to 910,602 in the same time period in the first quarter of the 2012 fiscal year. January A-train ridership numbers showed a 43 percent increase with 48,000 people carried.

Dee Leggett, vice president of communications and planning, said officials are looking for the best time to approach area cities about future membership in the DCTA.

Another part of the Senate bill would clarify that DCTA can hire or contract for fare enforcement officers.

In the last legislative session, Leggett said, there was language to address fare enforcement officers but officials wanted to make sure the language gave them the flexibility to contract the officers or hire them directly as DCTA employees. Currently, the officers are contract hires. Another aspect of the bill gives DCTA a purchasing process and procedures that are consistent with other governmental agencies. For example, it would allow DCTA to lease or purchase land without having to go through a competitive bid process.

Nelson said in an e-mail that her bill gives DCTA additional authority to provide effective transit service in the community.

“As DCTA continues to grow, we must ensure that it has the right tools to operate an efficient, seamless transportation system,” she said.

DCTA President Jim Cline remains optimistic about the passage of the senator’s bill.

“We have a good track record in years past on reasonable requests of the Legislature,” he said. “As you go through the years and time, you recognize there are things that need to be modified just for good governance. Those are the things we are pursuing and I remain very positive about the legislation coming through this year.”

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is blewis@dentonrc.com.


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