Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Tri County/Florida News

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA): Governing Bd Meets in Locked Building. Safety Issues Kept Under Lock and Key

SVTA parking lot. Vendors claim they are not being paid enough to maintain their vehicles.

SUWANNEE COUNTY, FL – The Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA) Governing Board is comprised of two county commissioners from each of Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee counties. The SVTA is the tri county Medicaid and Transportation Disadvantaged provider, transporting those who qualify to medical appointments. The competency of the present management of the SVTA has been an ongoing contentious issue since 2011. At 6pm on Monday the Governing Board met for a special meeting. Nowhere was the meeting announced as a special meeting. Notices were not posted in plain sight. The meeting was held in a locked building.

Controversy is nothing new to the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority. Besides being challenged by the Sunshine Law, it has been challenged by Florida's public records laws. This North Central Florida agency is totally funded by tax payer dollars.

The SVTA Bd considers this adequate public notice for a special meeting.
         +++ Click to enlarge

It appears that sometime in the past a special meeting was called for Monday night. No agendas were made available to the public for this meeting. It is unclear who called the meeting.

Ralph Kitchens, a Local Transportation Disadvantaged Board member, found out about the meeting and attended. He told the Observer, "The topic of the meeting was non compliance with safety issues between the private transportation providers and the SVTA."

Mr. Kitchens continued, "The private providers complained that the SVTA wasn't paying them enough money to maintain their vehicles."

Mr. Kitchen, who spent 20 years in the trucking industry concluded, "Safety should always be number one. If this is true, this is a major problem."

The Observer emailed the following questions to SVTA Operations Director, Bill Steele; Columbia County Commissioners Bucky Nash and Ronald Williams, and to Suwannee County Commissioner Phil Oxendine. These three Commissioners sit on the SVTA Governing Board.

 If you sent out notices to the media, please forward. I saw the notice in the community calendar of the LCR. Do you feel that is where public notices of special SVTA meetings should be announced?

Did the LCR leave out the fact that this was a special meeting, or did you not notify them of this fact?

The doors of this meeting were locked. Would you please explain how a meeting can be public in a locked building?

Who at the SVTA is responsible for contacting the media?

I have a copy of an email from Com. Nash directing that the Observer be advised of the SVTA meetings. I did not get notice of this meeting. Why?

Was the NCFRPC notified of this meeting? Do you think it important that the Planning Council know what is going on at the SVTA?

Was Alana Mckay notified? Do you think ACHA, the funding agency, should be aware of your meetings?

Considering the recent friction between the SVTA and many other parties, do you think the CTD should have been advised of this special meeting?

If you have an agenda for this special meeting, please forward.

After the article was published to the web, the Observer received an email response from the SVTA Director, Gwen Pra. That response is here.

An email was also received from the NCFRPC, which said, "We did not receive notice of this meeting."

Only Columbia County Commissioner Bucky Nash responded. He told the Observer that the notice issues were going to be addressed at the next SVTA Governing Board meeting.

Sandra Buckcamp, another Local Transportation Disadvantaged Board member had arranged to drive to the meeting with Mr. Kitchens. That plan didn't work and Ms. Buckcamp drove herself and arrived after the meeting had begun. Ms. Buckcamp told the Observer, "I got there ten after six. The doors were locked. No notice was posted on the door of the Boardroom. I drove 50 miles roundtrip to attend."

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Related Links:

• I Had The Displeasure of Having To Ride SVTA
(Posted August 27, 2014)

Former Suwannee Valley TA Operations Director: Team SVTA Accomplished Its Mission
(Posted August 25, 2014)

Suwannee Valley TA: In Disarray Since 2011, The SVTA Remains Severely Challenged
(Posted August 19, 2014)

Suwannee Valley TA: Dialysis Patients Riding On Saturday for Another Month
(Posted May 14, 2014)

FOILED – A Plan to Depose the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council and Replace it With the SVTA
(Posted May 1, 2014)

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority:
Here They Go Again - Good Government, What's That?

(Posted April 30, 2014)

• Administrator and Director of Operations Resign
(Posted April 24, 2014)

Suwannee Valley TA Under Microscope: OIG (Office of the Inspector General) Called In To Investigate
(Posted March 13, 2014)

Transit Authority Moves Into 21st Century Commissioner Nash Says, "No Mas" to Secrecy
(Posted March 11, 2014)

Governing Bd Meets in Locked Building. Safety Issues Kept Under Lock and Key
(Posted November 6, 2013)

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority Grievance Committee: Other Complaints & Retaliation (Posted Sept 30, 2013)  (Part II)

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority Grievance Committee Meets: Complaints Upheld - Rider's Representative Retaliated Against
(Posted Sept 27, 2013)

• In 2014 it is estimated that 40% of the tri county SVTA population will be eligible for Transportation for the Disadvantaged.
(Posted July 31, 2013)

Operations Manager Gets 13% Pay Raise
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(Posted July 11, 2013)

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA): Florida's Sunshine Laws - What's that?
(Posted April 23, 2012)

 • Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA) Train Wreck Continues: Accounting still questionable - Vendors still not being paid
(Posted March 27, 2012)

Dist V Com Scarlet Frasina Breaks Tie: Puts residents on hook for $300,000 loan to Suwannee Valley Transit Authority. Collateral – what's that?
(Posted March 02, 2012)

 • Suwannee Valley Transit Authority:
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(Posted January 31, 2011)