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Moss: Sales tax could help pay offset paratransit costs
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Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center's director is asking that Hall Area Transit's paratransit service also benefits from the state's proposed 1-cent sales tax for transportation.

Phillippa Lewis Moss has recommended to the Gainesville-Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization that some money be used specifically for Dial-A-Ride, a service that allows users to call ahead and schedule curbside pickup and transportation to a particular location.

"The majority of the clients include elderly persons, persons with disabilities and persons who are trying to uplift themselves from financial challenges," said Moss, a member of the MPO's Policy Committee.

Riders are taken to the Senior Life Center, shopping, social services and voting, among other destinations, she added.

Ten area counties provide a similar service, with "each local government (having) to use the general fund to (pay for) 50 percent of the (program's) cost," Moss said.

"We could displace those general fund dollars and use some (of the tax proceeds) to support that particular program."

Moss went on to say, "I think it would be beneficial to do that because this is one of those special programs where people in Hall County can see value. ... These programs are very popular and attractive in that they serve the most needy in our population."

The Dial-A-Ride program had 28,119 riders in 2010, compared to 26,964 in 2009, according to the Community Service Center's website.

The fare starts at $2 and goes up with each additional mile.

Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the MPO, said he believes the best part of the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, which authorizes a statewide referendum on the matter, is that "it includes construction, maintenance and operations on the roadway side and ... capital projects and maintenance and operations on the transit side."

In a process overseen by the Georgia Department of Transportation, project lists will be generated for each of the 12 established districts throughout Georgia, with the 13-county Georgia Mountains district including Hall. A transportation "roundtable" has been set up in each district to help steer efforts.

The MPO, acting on behalf of area governments, must submit a list of "unconstrained" projects - basically a wish list with no particular regard to funding — to the Gainesville-based Georgia Mountains Regional Commission by March 30.

The list is set to go before the Policy Committee on March 8, Yamala has said.

An executive committee chosen by each roundtable must develop a "constrained" list by Aug. 15.
The full roundtable will vote on the final list sometime before Oct. 15.

Voters statewide will decide in August 2012 whether to approve the tax.

"I think when it comes time for the people to go to the polls and vote, when they see projects like this on the list, they'll be very enticed to (vote in favor)," Moss said, speaking of the paratransit suggestion.