Council Approves Accessible Transit Contract

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By a 5-2 vote, the Raleigh City Council agreed Tuesday to enter into a $1.7 million contract with MV Transportation for the city’s Accessible Raleigh Transportation program (ART). Councilors Nancy McFarlane and Eugene Weeks voted against the contract.

MV Transportation will provide group rides to disabled and elderly residents who are coming from or going to similar locations. About 25 percent of the rides through the ART program would be given to MV Transportation. The rest would continue to be served by various taxi companies throughout the city.

The contract received negative feedback from cab owners, who claimed that it would put some smaller companies out of business. Some companies said they answered the Request for Proposal, but were denied the contract because they could not meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.

The city receives federal money through the program by billing Medicaid, which means companies with city contracts must meet certain guidelines, as MV Transportation does. Taxi companies are currently considered brokers so they are exempt from these guidelines. City officials have said that the having group rides would save up to half the cost per person per ride.

Minority Business Definition Changed
Councilors unanimously approved a change to the definition of minority business for eligibility in the Small Disadvantaged Minority and Women Owned Business program. The council agreed to reinstate Asian and Native Americans into the program. They were removed last fall.

Steve Rao and Tony Hayes, representing the Council of American Minority Professionals and the North Carolina Indian Economic Development Initiative, respectively, asked the city council Aug. 2 to reinstate the two groups to the program.

The city removed the two groups after following recommendations made by the state’s Department of Transportation Disparity Study, which found that Asian and Native American businesses did not have a high availability rate. Those that were available — or ready, willing and able to work — were working at their full capacity. They were subsequently removed from the state DOT’s program.

Small Business Initiative Approved
City Councilor and mayoral candidate Nancy McFarlane’s small business initiative is beginning to move forward.

The council unanimously approved the designation of a city staff member to be a point of contact for those seeking information about opening a small business in Raleigh. This person will also be responsible for maintaining partnerships with groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and directing entrepreneurs to these resources. The office could be expanded in the future and a nine-member commission is also intended.

City to Refund Tornado Relief Grant
The city will be refunding a grant awarded by the federal Historic Preservation Fund for restoration work at Raleigh City Cemetery after significant damage by the April 16 tornado.

City Manager Russell Allen said that to expedite the rehabilitation work for FEMA funds, the city used city staff and expert volunteers. Had the city waited to receive the $10,000 grant, Allen said, it would have slowed down the documentation process for FEMA funding.

FEMA will pay for 75 percent of the cleanup.

Wake County Interlocal Agreement Suspended
The city suspended negotiations with Wake County to acquire the “Friends” property at Lake Johnson for the construction of a multipurpose building. The location of the building has been in debate in the Budget and Economic Committee since the beginning of the summer.

The committee recommended that staff should move forward with the formal review of Lake Johnson Master Plan, which includes more input by the public, advisory boards and city staff.

Councilor Thomas Crowder asked that the stadium improvements and the multipurpose building be considered separate plans so that the stadium improvements can go forward without the building.

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