County upgrades scheduling system for dial-a-ride buses
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
The Coweta County Transit System is now using new “ride match” software that has greatly improved the efficiency and scheduling for the system, which provides door-to-door transportation anywhere in Coweta.
Before the new software package, all the routing “was still done on paper,” said Tavores Edwards, Coweta’s transportation planner.
The ride-match program includes automatic vehicle locating systems on all the transit system’s coaches; dispatchers can see exactly where each coach is located at all times.
“It’s just bringing us light years ahead,” Edwards said.
The system was purchased by the state with stimulus money, Edwards said.
The transit system is a dial-a-ride program. Riders must call at least 24 hours in advance to schedule their trips. The system operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and goes everywhere in Coweta.
Coaches will also go into Palmetto to the southernmost MARTA bus station, if requested. “We have had requests from citizens to do that,” Edwards said.
Commissioner Al Smith asked if the system is also picking people up from the MARTA bus stop.
People can be dropped off and picked up from there, if it is during operating hours, Edwards said. Riders schedule their pick-up and drop-off at the same time.
“It hasn’t been that many,” Edwards said.
The transit system began operating in July 2009. It has been quite popular and successful.
Though the service is open to anyone in Coweta, the majority of the riders are senior citizens or people using the system for medical needs.
Commissioner Tim Lassetter said he’s heard from a number of people who talk about how important the system is to them.
“It has been very beneficial for those individuals that would have to rely on other family members or friends if it wasn’t for this service — or not get to go,” Lassetter said.
“That is exactly what I hear,” Edwards added.
The system is a “5311” service, as it is funded through section 5311 of the U.S. Code, the Rural Transit Assistance Program.
In addition to fares, the service is paid for with a combination of federal, state and local funds. Coweta’s portion of the funding for the upcoming year will be the same as this year, $34,532, which is 50 percent of the total cost.
To schedule a ride or for more information, call 770-683-RIDE (7433).
In other meeting business:
• The board voted to deny a front yard setback variance request for 669 Ragsdale Road.
Richard Powell has placed a pre-fab accessory building in his front yard, within the required 100-foot front yard setback. The building is 30 feet from the road.
The planning department and Board of Zoning Appeals recommended denial.
“There is a place on the property he could put it,” said Commissioner Paul Poole.
Yes, there is an area where the building could be placed that would be in compliance with the county’s rules, said Zoning Administrator Angela White.
• The board approved a landscape variance for the new stormwater detention pond at The Heritage School.
A new stormwater pond was required by the construction of the school’s new gymnasium. The school was asking for a variance of the required planting along the fence line because the pond is in a wooded area.
Neighbor Mitch Ginn said he agreed that the school shouldn’t have to do commercial style landscaping, but he would like to see a little bit of extra vegetation planted.
White said there is no requirement for planting to screen the pond itself, just to cover the fence.
“Even though the county may not necessarily require what Mr. Ginn is asking, did any representatives of Heritage say that they would be willing to do something along the lines of what Mr. Ginn is asking?” asked Commissioner Lassetter.
“The Heritage School will get in contact with Mr. Ginn, and we’ll make arrangements to do so,” said Chuck Brown of Heritage.
“It sounds like y’all have been good neighbors for many years anyway,” said Lassetter. “But it is good to have it on record that y’all are willing to work with one another.”
• The board voted to declare several tracts of land owned by the county in the Four Seasons development as surplus.
The 18 tracts will be sold as two blocks, and will be sold by sealed bid.
The tracts were “brought in through tax deeds,” said County Attorney Jerry Ann Conner. The county has owned them for “quite a while,” she said and there has “been some interest” in the properties “for a while.”
The properties will be sold by quit claim deed. “The county will not be conveying marketable title,” Conner said. “They’re still subject to the taxpayer’s right of redemption.”
• Mildred Beadles appeared before the commissioners regarding smoking outside the Federal Building on Greenville Street in Newnan by staffers.
Beadles said she always goes to the downtown post office, and she always has to walk through a cloud of smoke. “You have the security personnel with the federal building — they always step outside right in front and smoke,” she said. “I don’t know who else to address this to,” she said.
Beadles said she lost a niece in July to lung cancer. “And she never was a smoker,” Beadles said.
“When you walk through this smoke, you have to take a second wind,” she said. And the smoke lingers for a while. “I would appreciate someone looking into this,” she said.
Matt Brass, who works for Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, was in the audience and spoke to Ms. Beadles after the meeting about the issue.
• The board voted to authorize staff to negotiate with J.R. Wilburn & Associates for consulting services related to the Coweta County Joint Comprehensive Transportation Plan update.
• The board executed a proclamation declaring Sept. 23, 2012, as William Thomas Overby Day in Coweta County.
• The board voted to approve the closure of a section of Coweta-Heard Road from noon on Sunday to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, for filming of “The Walking Dead.”
• The board approved a crew’s request to film exterior portions of the Coweta County Justice Center for a show on the Investigation Discovery channel.
“They’re doing a follow-up on an actual case that took place here in Coweta,” said Tray Baggarly, county event services director.