The Monroe City Council voted earlier this week to spend nearly $500,000 on a new facility where the city’s transit system buses could be washed.
During its regular meeting Tuesday, the City Council approved the low bid of $479,000 from Traxler Construction Company, of Monroe, for the city’s First Transit System.
The Monroe Transit System (MTS) Bus Wash project includes replacing the current wash facility that cleans buses on a daily basis.
Eugene Payne, a citizen of Monroe, voiced concern about the project, specifically about the amount of money to be spent.
“You got almost half a million dollars to be spent on a project that really hasn’t been talked about,” Payne said.
City Councilman Eddie Clark also voiced concern about the lack of information provided to the City Council about the project. He explained that the contract was advertised for bids, but he was unaware of the project’s details. He expressed surprise that Traxler was the lowest bidder.
According to MTS General Manager Marc Keenan, a new washing facility was required because the existing wash system was installed in the early 1990s. Replacing parts on the obsolete system was too difficult, according to Keenan.
“It’s hard to get the parts,” Keenan said. “The machine is obsolete and then you can’t get anybody to service it because it’s so old.”
The project also consists of replacing the facility’s oil water separator, according to Keenan.
Funding for the $479,000-wash project will come from federal grants and the MTS’ budget, according to Keenan. Federal grant money would cover 80 percent of the project’s costs, he said.
Clark said he would withhold his vote until he knew the estimated balance of the MTS’ budget.
The resolution was put on hold until Stacey Rowell, Mayo’s director of administration, retrieved a document detailing MTS’ budget from her office.
“I wanted to know how much money was in the Transit’s budget before I voted on that,” Clark said. “I wanted to know how much money was there and that we’ve increased rates with Transit, and I wanted to kind of get a year to dollar amount to see where we are as of this meeting.”
Rowell informed the City Council that MTS’s current budget, as of Monday, was $683,279.
Clark explained he wanted to see whether the MTS’ budget was at a balance that justified the increase in rates and to ensure management was handling the budget accordingly.
The City Council approved the resolution unanimously. City Council members Clark, Kenneth “Kenny” Wilson, Juanita Woods and Gretchen Ezernack were present for the vote.
In other news, Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo asked the City Council to recognize detectives of the Monroe Police Department for their recent work in the field.
Local officials have recently expressed concerns about crime in Monroe, drawing pointed remarks from Mayo.
“That seems to be a topic of discussion,” Mayo said.
Mayo suggested that crime became a subject of discussion only because it’s election season.
Mayo will stand for re-election in the April 4 municipal primary.
“Now I do get disturbed because people politicize things, and we know who they are, and I look forward to the upcoming debates because there’s some people, who quite frankly, don’t know what they’re talking about,” Mayo said.
After the meeting, Mayo declined to answer questions from The Ouachita Citizen.