ST. LOUIS NEWS TODAY -
Federal Grants Will Support Development of New Electric Bus Program
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), September 23, 2018 - Metro Transit has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to support the development and implementation of a program that will bring the latest in environmentally responsible, cost-effective electric bus technology to the MetroBus fleet. The first extended-range battery electric buses are scheduled to be delivered in 2020.
The funding comes from the FTA's Low- or No-Emission (Low-No) Grant program, which funds the deployment of transit buses and infrastructure that use advanced propulsion technologies. This $1.5 million grant complements a $1.45 million grant Metro Transit received from the FTA earlier this year in March to support battery electric buses and infrastructure.
"This funding from the Federal Transit Administration will help us introduce cutting-edge technology as we continue our work to build a new vision for public transit in the St. Louis region," said Jessica Mefford-Miller, Executive Director of Metro Transit. "Electric bus technology is one part of a large, comprehensive plan to provide new services and mobility options that are efficient, fast and able to meet the evolving needs of our riders."
Both FTA grants will be used to help establish an electric bus fleet, which will eventually include 40-foot extended-range battery electric buses, 60-foot battery electric articulated buses and the necessary infrastructure to power the buses and allow for future expansion. The electric buses will work alongside Metro's clean-burning diesel bus fleet to provide MetroBus service to the St. Louis region.
Metro also plans to introduce other new vehicles and services into the transit system as part of Metro Reimagined, an innovative, forward-looking vision for mobility in the St. Louis region. In addition to electric buses, Metro is looking at microtransit options, on-demand services, and smaller buses and vehicles - ranging 24 to 27 feet in size and accommodating 20 to 40 passengers - to more efficiently serve neighborhoods and other areas in the St. Louis region. An updated draft of the Metro Reimagined service plan will be available later this year.
Little Accountability Over Millions in Taxpayer Dollars for Business Recruiting
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), September 23, 2018 - State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released an audit of the Economic Development Advancement Fund (EDAF), which is primarily overseen by the Department of Economic Development (DED). The fund supports an exclusive contract with the Hawthorn Foundation for business development and marketing, but the audit found little oversight or accountability in how taxpayer dollars are spent.
Approximately 86% of spending from the EDAF goes to the Hawthorn Foundation and its subsidiary, the Missouri Partnership, which manages nearly all of Missouri's efforts to recruit new businesses to the state. During the past three fiscal years, 45% of the Hawthorn Foundation's income came from the EDAF. Other revenues include grants, membership dues and foreign trade office income.
"It is essential that Missouri is competitive nationally, and this public-private partnership is helping meet that important goal. However, that does not mean taxpayers should give up the right to have their dollars used efficiently and transparently," Auditor Galloway said in a release. "In this case, the state is not doing its due diligence to ensure accountability for millions in taxpayer dollars."
The Department of Economic Development is responsible for administering the contract and is required to provide oversight on how state funds are spent by the Hawthorn Foundation and the Missouri Partnership. However, the DED only receives general information about expenditures. During the audit, the State Auditor's Office requested details to review, but the DED declined to ask the Partnership for specific documentation on spending.
The lack of specific information on expenditures means the DED is not adequately overseeing the use of state funds. For example, over a three year period, approximately 60 percent of Partnership expenditures were for payroll and bonus payments, but the department did not receive itemized salary information for how more than $4.3 million was spent.
Additional concerns were identified in the way incentive payments were awarded by DED. Under the contract, these incentives are based on the number of jobs announced per year, but it appears the per-job performance rate was adjusted to ensure the Hawthorn Foundation received the maximum payment every year. The DED also did not independently verify the number of new jobs announced, which resulted in inconsistencies in these numbers.
"When it comes to performance-based incentives, the Department of Economic Development is simply not administering the contract effectively, instead awarding the maximum payment without verifying if the results are correct," Auditor Galloway said. "Relying on news clippings from when new businesses are announced is not an effective solution to ensure accuracy. There needs to be a better system in place."
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