PennDOT made aware of LATS issue; awaits details
MOUNT CARMEL - Officials from Mount Carmel and the Lower Anthracite Transportation System (LATS) that it manages have contacted PennDOT regarding their concerns about billing discrepancies involving King Coal Tours, formerly contracted as the LATS bus service provider.
PennDOT Deputy press secretary Erin Waters-Trasatt confirmed in an e-mail Wednesday that borough officials have informed the state they are looking into the situation. She said PennDOT is awaiting further information from the borough.
"They (the discrepancies) may relate to contract terms and would have to be sorted out by the parties involved in the contract," she said. "Once a determination is made between the two parties, Mount Carmel/LATS will have to determine if the outcome impacts audit reports. If so, the audit reports would have to be redone and resubmitted to PennDOT. PennDOT would review those audit reports to determine any necessary department actions."
The likelihood of contract terms being "sorted out" by the two parties seems slim, however. LATS and King Coal officials have expressed frustration with each other, and LATS says the company, despite repeated requests, has not substantiated through receipts what it charged LATS for services since at least 2009.
A six-month push by LATS for details on spending led King Coal to abruptly end its contract with LATS effective Jan. 31 after 28 years, saying it wasn't fully paid for services rendered.
PennDOT funds LATS through Act 44 of 2007, with different sections covering operating funding, capital funds and bond funding. PennDOT also provides LATS with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds for both operating and capital purposes, Waters-Trasatt explained.
LATS is designed to provide affordable public transportation, which is free to those 65 and older, to locations mostly in eastern Northumberland County. It has been funded by $7.9 million in federal and state grants in its 30 years of existence, Waters-Trasatt said.
The borough, which is awarded grant money, enters into a contract with bus service provider, and reimburses that company for its expenses in operating the system. LATS owns its fleet of four buses.
Waters-Trasatt said PennDOT requires budget information on expense and revenue categories and statistical information, and has received the PennDOT-required information from LATS - including applications, quarterly reports and audit reports.
Since 2002, transit systems have not been required by FTA to bid for service every five years as in the past, but they must bid the purchase of buses and replacement parts every five years, she said.
Meanwhile, Tony Matulewicz, borough council president, said he couldn't comment further on the borough's plans in addressing the spending discrepancies until it was discussed further with all members of borough council.