County hopeful TxDOT will restore $600k in vanpool grants

County hopeful TxDOT will restore $600k in vanpool grants

El Paso County remains hopeful this week that the Texas Department of Transportation will reimburse a majority of more than half a million dollars in withheld grant money.

That funding has been in jeopardy because of the county's disgraced Vamonos Vanpool program. ABC-7 spoke this week with the county auditor's office, which took over communications with TxDOT nearly two months ago.

The county's former family and community services manager, Rosemary Neill, was let go in May for not providing TxDOT with van-mileage updates and passenger information.

The county auditor's office has now dug up and submitted the tardy program information, which Neill -- upon her firing -- said could urge TxDOT to release the withheld grant money.

The county's vanpool vendor, vRide, hasn't billed the county since December. But the auditor's office told ABC-7 this week that vRide has continued charging vanpool riders the county-subsidized price. That means vRide has eaten the county's more than $300,000 unpaid bill, in hopes that the county will eventually pay it back -- if and when the TxDOT funding comes in.

ABC-7 won't have an estimated difference between subsidized and unsubsidized riding prices until TxDOT decides what percentage of the more than $600,000 in grants will be restored.

The auditor's office said it expects to hear an answer from TxDOT within the week.

"We want to continue moving forward with the new project. We're working in tandem with TxDOT to submit new program guidelines that we feel will meet or actually exceed all of the basic requirements they had," said Michael Martinez of the county auditor's office. "So that we can keep the program going, more efficiently, more effectively, and within any constraints that TxDOT has."

TxDOT also recommended that the county send the vanpool service out for bid when its contract with vRide expires in late January. The auditor's office expects that bidding process to likely start sometime in early December.

comments powered by Disqus