Users of Carroll County's veterans shuttle can rest assured the service will continue functioning at its current level regardless of who operates it.

During a meeting Thursday, the Department of Citizen Services presented the Carroll County Board of Commissioners with several contingency plans to ensure uninterrupted service in case a change in provider is necessary in the future. Carroll Area Transit System is the current provider.


The commissioners chose not to vote on a specific plan to move forward with, saying there was no pressing need to switch providers.

Three plans were presented to the board. Although each plan provided a different level of service and associated costs, the one unifying factor was the county would operate the shuttle.

Madeline Morey, director of Citizen Services, said she and her staff recommended the more expensive of the three plans because it would maintain the same level of service, whereas the other two — though less expensive — would limit the number of shuttle trips, the areas served and the number of residents able to use it.

The recommended plan would incur one-time start-up costs of about $161,000 to purchase two six-passenger buses and a van capable of transporting multiple wheelchair riders. The money would also pay for radios, tablets for limited English-speaking riders and branding. The estimated annual operating costs would be about $40,000, which includes fuel, maintenance and the salary of a driver, including benefits.

The commissioners directed the department to create such a plan in February. The difficulties the county dealt with during the transition from CATS to Butler for general transportation services prompted a perceived need for a contingency plan, Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5 said during the February meeting.

From Feb. 17, when Butler took over general transportation services in the county, to Feb. 24, the county received more than 20 complaints from riders about poor communication, late arrivals and departures, and sometimes buses that never showed up, Morey said.

Since then, the number of complaints has decreased significantly, she said.

"I can't remember the last time I got a specific complaint," Morey said. "On the other end, with the shuttle, I haven't received any complaints about that. It seems people are currently satisfied with both public transportation and the shuttle."

Howard said that because the agreement with CATS to run the veterans' shuttle is not a contract but simply parameters of service, both the county and CATS could choose to opt out of it.

CATS is being paid based on the time it takes to transport the riders and the time they wait during the rider's visits, said Jodi Glock, transportation grants coordinator for the department. The county is paying on average $125 per rider, but this figure is based on if there is only one rider, she said. More times than not, Glock said, more than one person is transported per trip.

"If at some point the county felt there needed to be a change, or if [CATS] can't continue service, it's up to [the county] to come up with another solution," Howard said in February.

Morey said it was her impression the board wanted to implement a plan by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. Howard said Thursday that because there is currently no plan to switch providers, the commissioners were not overly concerned with identifying an exact date to have the plan functional.

"There's no telling if this will be a for-profit or nonprofit that ends up running this service," he said Thursday.

Mike "Mad Dog" Sater, assistant adjutant with the Maryland chapter of Disabled American Veterans, said it is very encouraging that staff and the commissioners are remaining dedicated to provided this service to veterans in Carroll.


"The shuttle is very important to the veterans community," Sater said. "We have an aging group of veterans. Asking someone who is in their 70s or 80s to drive long distances to get treatment is not something they need to be doing."

The veterans shuttle was initially grant-funded in 2012 and transports veterans and their caregivers to Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals outside of the county, a service not offered to other Carroll residents.

Since July 2014, the number of registered clients has risen from 91 to 106, and the majority have been transported to the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Hospital Center on North Greene Street in Baltimore.

The shuttle also serves to attract military personnel nearing retirement to relocate in the area, Sater said.

"One of the major parts of the program is enticing other veterans nearing retirement looking for a residence," he said. "It's something that no other county has."