“No bus service planned for Tanger Outlets Mall”
This morning I read an informative piece in the Daytona Beach News-Journal reporting on the County of Volusia’s shortsighted refusal to extend Votran bus service to the new Tanger Outlet Mall.
In essence – Volusia officials are money-grubbing again, and the abject arrogance expressed by the County’s top transportation official tells me County Manager Jim Dinneen is pulling the strings on this one.
Last year, the County Council voted to approve an agreement to contribute $2.25 million to the Tanger development – while Daytona Beach city commissioners approved the expenditure of an additional $2.25 million for roads, water and sewer pipes, sidewalks and other infrastructure.
The highly anticipated 39-acre, $100 million-dollar retail center is set to open later this week.
Now, county officials would have us believe that they failed to allocate funds for public transportation service to the outlet mall.
They can’t be that stupid.
Like everything else in Volusia County, the devil is in the details.
After throwing a collective $4.5 million of our tax dollars into a private retail development we’re told that the critical element of public transportation won’t be available.
The reason? No money.
According to Steve Sherrer, general manager of our county operated bus system, “There is currently no funding in Votran’s operating budget to support new service to the Tanger mall.”
In Volusia County’s typical over-the-top fashion – Sherrer would have us believe that adding a short connection to an important economic driver like Tanger would cost between $300,000 to $400,000 a year – not counting the cost of vehicles.
According to Google Maps, using the North Williamson Boulevard route from the nearest Votran stop on LPGA Boulevard, the distance is approximately one-half mile. Too far for the elderly or disabled to walk – especially on a hot summer day – but a short five-minutes by bus.
In June of last year, Sherrer sent a letter to the City of Daytona Beach asking if they would be interested in funding bus service for Tanger Outlets and the nearby Trader Joe’s distribution center.
Seem weird? You bet it is.
In turn, Assistant City Manager Betty Goodman responded, “It is surprising that Votran’s opinion is that expense for the new service would need to be borne by the city. As I’m sure you are aware, we do not have any budget for Votran service routes.”
According to Sherrer, “We certainly recognize that Tanger is going to be a legitimate trip generator, but if I don’t have any money in my budget (to add Votran service to the outlet mall) how am I supposed to provide it?” he asked. “I reached out to the city but I can’t twist their arm.”
When asked by the News-Journal whether Votran has sought funding assistance from the outlet mall itself, Sherrer said, “We have not heard from Tanger, but I haven’t picked up the phone (to speak with them).”
Of course not.
Why would the general manager of our public transportation system consider “picking up the phone” and communicating with the area’s most touted retail destination in years to discuss alternatives to a problem everyone saw coming over a year ago?
I suppose it comes from the same mindset that fails to budget – or at least plan for the system flexibility necessary to address a legitimate public need.
Let me get this right: We use millions in public funds to create ‘jobs’ – then fail to provide a means of access to workers who rely on public transportation – and the shoppers who will ultimately make or break our investment.
In most competently managed and accountable organizations – Mr. Sherrer would be called on the carpet and summarily fired for his incompetence, lack of strategic planning, piss-poor budgetary oversight, and the condescending tone of his public communications on a matter of community concern.
As I’ve previously said, once again a situation erupts that exposes the depth of dysfunction in County government and begs the obvious question: “When is it appropriate to hold public officials accountable”?
In the Dinneen administration the answer is never.
In government, as in most progressive private organizations, accountability exists when a responsible individual, and the services they provide, are subject to critical oversight. This occurs when the responsible party is required to provide articulable justification for their actions, omissions, expenditures, planning, and performance.
A practice especially important for government officials at the executive level whose decisions can have wide-ranging and very expensive implications – such as the management of our public transportation system.
Despite overwhelming evidence that Mr. Dinneen is incapable of holding his senior staff responsible for their continuing pattern of gross mismanagement – a serious problem that has been the hallmark of his tenure – rather than demand accountability, our elected officials continue to praise Dinneen’s performance, and reinforce his behavior.
You want to know what is truly the most serious issue Volusia County residents face?
It is the staggering level of incompetence, government waste and resource mismanagement during Jim Dinneen’s administration – and a continuing, almost institutionalized, lack of substantive oversight by our elected officials that allows this atrocious malfeasance to continue.
Now, as always, Volusia County is crying poor-mouth and threatening service cuts to municipal taxpayers as a means of shirking yet another county responsibility.
Call it what it is – extortion.
You want transportation to the most heralded addition to the Halifax area’s retail scene in over 20-years?
Then pay us what we demand – or walk.