Sep 8, 2005

Troutdale Transit: Where's the Beef?

UPDATE 11/01/05: In a letter to the City of Troutdale, The West Columbia Chamber of Commerce refused the City Council's invitation to discuss the Troutdale TMA at the November 8 or any future city council meeting. This is fascinating, because in a July, 2005 letter to the city, the Chamber said they would discuss requests for information from the city only in "open meetings". Talk about your doublespeak. . . .a foolish choice for Chamber leadership. The BEST part of this letter- the Chamber insisted that the City of Troutdale doesn't give the Chamber any money. I guess the Troutdale city budget and municipal code are just a fantasy. Especially the portion that charges a .95% hotel/motel tax. Especially the portion that gives the city the responsibility to collect the tax from hotels and motels. And especially the $45,000 in greenbacks the Troutdale Budget committee voted to appropriate to the Chamber. All fantasy. Not real. Doesn't exist.

UPDATE 9/14/05: The Troutdale City Council passed a motion last night to invite the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce to a future City Council meeting in order to give the City Council an update on the status of the Troutdale TMA.

While asking Troutdale city staff whether anyone from the city had attempted to persuade Tri-Met to add an express bus from Troutdale to downtown Portland (the answer was no), the discussion turned to who was responsible for pursuing a new bus line.

City Staff suggested that the Troutdale Transportation Management Association (TMA) should be the group to pursue new transit ideas. The Troutdale TMA is a part of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce.

According to Diane McKeel, Executive Director of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce,
the Troutdale Area TMA Feasibility Study Final Report (July, 2003), prepared for the City of Troutdale and the Troutdale Area Chamber of Commerce, constitutes the terms for the grant from Metro to fund the TMA. She specifically mentioned to Troutdale Community Development Director Rich Faith that the section of the report on Funding and Budget, pp. 19-23, spells out the amount of the grant and how it is to be used. (Actually, the Final Report is silent on allowed grant expenditures. I'll see if I can get the TMA study documents online for downloads.)

Here is the breakdown of proposed income/expense for the first year of the grant, beginning in April 2004:

Revenue 1st year: Grant funds from METRO $67,500; Chamber of Commerce local match of $7500 (to cover office space, computers, supplies and administrative support to a TMA/TDM Coordinator based within the Chamber), for total income of $75,000.

Expense 1st year: Marketing/Communications $24,000, Operating
expenses(office/phones/printing) $13,500, TMA/TDM Coordinator $37,500, for total expense of $75,000.

The Troutdale Area TMA Feasibility Study Final Report included a three year action plan. For instance, the first year action plan and implementation tasks included:

- Hire 1.0 FTE TMA/TDM Coordinator

- TMA/TDM Supports Stakeholders Oversight Group and Organizational Committee

- -Refine Work Plan and regularize meeting schedule/work sessions with Stakeholders,

- Oversight Group and Organizational Committees

- -Refine Work Plan and reconfirm priority task rankings

- -Pursue highest priority work plans items, particularly development of outreach efforts and establishment of TDM resource system

- -Conduct direct one-on-one outreach effort to greater Troutdale businesses and surrounding committees to expand member participation

- -Develop and coordinate collateral materials and informational materials necessary for promoting and increasing awareness of TDM options and alternatives(includes Web site, maps/brochures, newsletters, personalized trip planning services or answering questions on trip planning options, surveys, transit pass sales, carpool matching, information resources)

- -Begin development of Year 2 Action Plans and Goals

Now here is where I have a few concerns. So far, the Chamber of Commerce has received or is scheduled to receive almost $117,000 in TMA grant money from Metro since April 2004. Yet the Work Group mentioned in the proposal has met only once that Rich Faith was aware of.

I'm wondering if the Troutdale TMA has actually completed any of the 1st year action items spelled out by the TMA work group, the City of Troutdale, and the Chamber.

Page 20 of the Feasibility Study Final Report states that,

"The budget outline presented here will need further review and refinement by the Stakeholders Work Group, the Troutdale Chamber of Commerce and the City of Troutdale".

This means that the Chamber of Commerce and the Work Group all agreed that the City of Troutdale is entitled to be at the table regarding income and expense discussions for the Troutdale TMA. The TMA is also an essential part of Troutdale's Transportation Master Plan.

I have asked city staff to ask the Troutdale TMA(remember, it's part of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce) whether the Troutdale TMA has completed any of these 1st year action items. If not, what work product spelled out in the Feasibility Final Report has the TMA completed?

I have also requested clarification on whether TMA grant money can be used only for TMA purposes, or can the Chamber use TMA monies for general Chamber operating expenses that have nothing to do with TMA purposes as spelled out in the Final Report. The Feasibility Study is silent on allowed and unallowed expenditures with grant money. If the Chamber of Commerce hasn't been using TMA grant money for TMA purposes, where did the $117,000 in grant money go?

I originally just wanted to know if Troutdale city staff had asked Tri-Met about adding an express bus. But now there are a lot more questions that deserve to be answered. Like what do taxpayers and Metro get for $117,000 in grant money given to the Troutdale TMA/Chamber of Commerce?

Where's the beef?

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