MOUNT VERNON — Earlier this month, management of Knox Area Transit passed from Knox County Job & Family Services to the Board of Knox County Commissioners.
“I think it will be a much more streamlined operation,” County Administrator Jason Booth said of the transition.
“When [operation of KAT] first came to the county, we did not have the resources to handle it ourselves,” explained Commissioner Teresa Bemiller. “Now we have a county administrator, human resources person, and an operations manager, so we are able to handle it directly.”
“It seemed like an extra layer of management we didn't need,” added Commissioner Thom Collier.
JFS took over management of KAT in November 2013. Prior to that, an independent board managed the transit company. KAT Director Martin McAvoy and KAT's finance manager were JFS employees and under JFS policies.
“They were paid by JFS, but JFS billed KAT back for those services,” said Booth. “Now they are on KAT's payroll directly and under county policies, not JFS.”
When JFS assumed management, the operations manager position was vacant. When the commissioners took over management, they filled that position and abolished another position that was no longer needed. That left KAT with the same number of employees but a reorganized structure.
Commissioner Bill Pursel said that filling the operations manager position frees up McAvoy to do things such as facilities planning and increasing ridership.
Regarding the cost effect of the management transition and filling the operations manager position, Booth said the “net effect to KAT is certainly zero and probably a savings.”
“Now they're taking care of finances in house, plus KAT no longer pays the JFS administrative fee,” he said.
The administrative fee includes the salary for McAvoy and the finance manager as well as administrative and supervisory services JFS provided.
“That fee varies each year based on the number of hours we use administrative resources. There was no set number,” said McAvoy.
In 2019, the fee was $175,000.
“The relationship with JFS has been good,” said McAvoy of the past seven years.
Pursel agreed and called the current arrangement the “3.0 version of KAT.”
“JFS came to the assistance of the county commissioners at a very crucial time for Knox Area Transit,” he said. “I was on the KAT board when this was in transition. Morale of the drivers and staff was at an all-time low back then, and JFS quickly turned that around.
“Martin’s leadership has brought back a confidence from the state that has benefited the county as well,” he added.