KINGSTON — The Luzerne County Transportation Authority Board Thursday certified its local match of $509,612 to receive about $5.15 million in state financial assistance funds. The board, during a special meeting, also approved a pass-through agreement with Hazleton Public Transit and a free-transit grant agreement Frank Martz Coach Co.
All three approvals were needed to submit the authority’s 2014-2015 operating grant application to the state Department of Transportation before the board’s next regular meeting on Aug. 26.
Luzerne County Council voted last month to approve a local funding match of $353,461.50, leaving the authority responsible for providing $156,150.50 in previous county funding that remained unused in the LCTA ’s coffers. Council voted not to provide any matching funds to Hazleton Public Transit because HPT has about $500,000 in unspent previous county funding.
Under the pass-through agreement, LCTA will use $134,346 of that in order to receive just over $1.7 million in state money for HPT to provide shared-ride services to senior citizens in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
The free transit agreement with Frank Martz Coach Co., LCTA would provide the company up to $13,163 in the fiscal year to provide free transit for senior citizens.
The board also approved grant management and signature authorization for Federal Transit Administration and PennDOT documents and OK’d designation of signature authority for Transportation Electronic Award & Management Process grantee and recipient user access.
Authority solicitor Joseph Blazosek told the board that would allow staff to have access to the system for reporting and signing documents.
Blazosek also announced early in the meeting that he updated the board on legal matters during a closed executive session before the public meeting.
There was no discussion during that public meeting of the pending cases of LCTA Executive Director Stanley Strelish and Fixed Ride Operations Manager Robb Henderson, who are on unpaid administrative leave following their June arrests on charges of conspiring to inflate senior citizen bus ridership numbers in order to increase state subsidies to the authority.
In a similar matter, PennDOT on Tuesday told the County of Lackawanna Transit System that it has to pay back $5.7 million in state funds for greatly inflating the numbers of senior citizen passengers on COLTS buses for each year from fiscal year 2005-2006 through 2010-2011.
Strelish and Henderson were allowed to use up their accrued personal, vacation and sick time until either it is exhausted or a determination is made in the case. That personal time amounts to about 16 weeks of accrued paid time off for Strelish and about 13 weeks for Henderson. About eight weeks have passed since their leave began.
Strelish, 60, of 17 Dogwood Drive, Wilkes-Barre, was charged by the state attorney general with 47 criminal counts, among them theft by deception, tampering with public records, unsworn falsification, false swearing and obstructing justice, and Henderson, 58, of 230 Harland St., Exeter, with 27 counts that include conspiring to tamper with public records, aiding the commission of a crime and conspiring to obstruct justice. Both are free on $25,000 unsecured bail.
Authority Chairman Sal Licata, as he did last month, Thursday commended LCTA staff and board members for stepping up putting in extra time and effort to keep operations running.