PINELLAS PARK — Taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $1.4 million over the next three years under the tentative settlement of a dispute between the county's bus system and a cab company.
The board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority on Wednesday voted 6-5 to keep its contract with Clearwater Yellow Cab, reversing a decision to open the contract to competing bids.
The PSTA has been battling Yellow Cab since November over the amount the agency is required to pay to provide rides for disabled passengers.
In the contract, the PSTA intended for Yellow Cab to be paid a total of $9.05 for most rides – $3.50 from the passenger and the remaining $5.55 from PSTA. The agency built its budget on those numbers.
But Yellow Cab read it differently. The company thought it would get both the $9.05 from the PSTA and the $3.50 passenger copay, for a total of $12.55 per ride. The difference doesn't sound like much, but with an estimated 228,000 rides this year, the total in dispute is a sizable $798,000.
PSTA has been paying the $3.50 per ride since the discrepancy was discovered for fear Yellow Cab would simply walk off the job. The PSTA board last month voted to rebid the contract.
But Wednesday, a group of board members took advantage of the absence of four of the 15-member group to rescind last month's decision.
Board members did agree to wait until other board members were present to vote on the settlement proposal. That vote is scheduled for April 22.
Under the proposal, PSTA and Yellow Cab would split the $3.50 copay. The first year, Yellow Cab would keep $1.83 of it, and the PSTA could deduct $1.67 from the $9.05 cost. Yellow Cab would get a minimum of $10.88 per ride. PSTA would pay out an estimated $417,240 more than it expected for the estimated 228,000 rides.
The second year, Yellow Cab would keep $2.12. PSTA would be on the hook for about $483,360 more than it expected.
The third year, Yellow Cab would keep $2.30 of the copay and the PSTA would have to shell out $524,400 more.
Over the three years, the PSTA would pay out an estimated $1.425 million more than it expected when it entered into the contract with Yellow Cab.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or [email protected]