officials hope keeping NOMBL is under the tree
By Jeff Gallatin
Published Dec. 8, 2004
It might just
take a Christmas miracle.
"It's the holiday
season," said Law Director Jim Dubelko. "We can hope for a miracle."
As the contract
expiration date for the current contract between the North Olmsted
Municipal Bus Line and the Regional Transit Authority nears, city
officials are hoping the spirit of the season pervades the negotiations.
member of the city negotiating team, said he still couldn't discuss
exact details of the talks because of the ongoing nature of the
negotiations, He said it's still tough going to try and hammer out
a deal by the time the current five-year agreement expires on Dec.
31. Dubelko acknowledged there is a strong possibility of RTA exercising
a contract clause and forcing NOMBL into a merger with the larger
One time frame
which has been discussed is March 18 as the last weekday operation
of the 75 NOMBL line from the west shore suburbs to downtown Cleveland
and back, the 19th as the last day of NOMBL operations and RTA taking
over all the operations on March 20.
RTA is focused on money and how to save it. "RTA really isn't giving
a whole lot in the talks," Dubelko said. "They seem to be in an
extreme cost-cutting mode and the talks are showing that."
General Manager Joe Calabrese said Monday no final decision has
"If North Olmsted
can find a way to keep going in a semi-autonomous manner, we would
be fine with that; in fact, we would welcome that," Calabrese said.
the reason RTA is considering merging with both the North Olmsted
and Maple Heights municipal bus lines is strictly financial.
"We have been
subsidizing those bus lines over and above what it would cost for
us to operate them at RTA as part of out system," Calabrese said.
"If a way can be found to deal with that, we would welcome it. North
Olmsted operates a fine system and the employees do an outstanding
with City Council and NOMBL officials Dec. 2 in an executive session
lasting about an hour.
He said various
possibilities were discussed by the group.
"We need to
consider different possibilities and continuing to try and get the
best deal possible for the citizens of North Olmsted and the NOMBL
employees," Dubelko said.
noted that the city had tried legal remedies via lawsuits in previous
contract difficulties with RTA in the last 30 years.
"We can't rule
anything out," he said. "A home rule argument is always a possibility
with a city run entity."
NOMBL was formed
in 1931 and is the oldest municipal bus line in the area. It and
Maple Heights are the only surviving independent municipal bus lines
in the county.
county and federal courts ultimately ruled against North Olmsted
previously, Dubelko said because the matters took time, NOMBL was
able to survive as a separate entity.
Since two scheduled
negotiating sessions remain -- including one this week, Dubelko
said the city will continue to try and get the best deal possible.
time clauses involved which would have to be invoked, and people
and agencies would have to be notified of changes in agreements,"
RTA officials remain flexible. He said the current proposed RTA
budget includes figures based on RTA's operating the bus lines as
part of its system. However, he said that could be altered if RTA
and North Olmsted reach an agreement that would stop the merger.
Councilman-at-large Michael Gareau Jr. said he's concerned about
potential city financial problems in the talks.
about the jobs of close to 60-some people and a lot of money in
our general fund," Gareau said. "We could take a $300,000 hit on
this. That's not something North Olmsted or any city can do easily
Manager Tom Terbrack said in addition to trying to find a solution
to the potential merger, the city team is focused on maintaining
the jobs of current employees.
be a couple of retirements by the end of the year, but we will have
59 full-time and four part-time positions we need to take care of,"
to discuss specific portions of the negotiating points being discussed,
citing the ongoing nature of the talks.
that the NOMBL employees would not be terminated, saying all of
them would be offered positions comparable in seniority to their
he doesn't think the city can completely break away from RTA and
run the line on its own.
"It's not something
that can happen anymore; it's just not feasible," he said.
he doesn't think legal action would be effective in this case. Nor
does the city want to just fold up services, he said.
about services the community needs and the jobs of the people involved,"
"If the best
scenario is a merger, then we have to go after the best possible
services for the community and the best jobs for those involved,"
He also cited
the possibility of some form of compensation or financial consideration
for North Olmsted for having to deal with the loss of jobs and general
fund income. Gareau said RTA doesn't seem too concerned about the
possible effect on North Olmsted.
to be the greater Cleveland transit authority, but to me its all
about Cleveland and not about North Olmsted or other communities,"
he would like to know what other communities and officials involved
or affected think.
"I wonder if
they're considering how this affects North Olmsted and those communities?"
Dennis Clough, an RTA board member, said the possible merger of
NOMBL and the Maple Heights system are being considered because
under the current situation, it would be better financially for
when a city considers its budget and has to make the most financially
responsible choice," Clough said. "The board is looking at its overall
budget for RTA throughout the county, not just one or two cities.
We're looking at what is the best financial option for the entire
RTA officials are making financial decisions in an effort to try
and avoid fare hikes or cuts in services.
items which we want to avoid," Calabrese said.
most cities have to make tough budget decisions when problems arise
and said RTA is trying to do the same thing.
and Clough said there are no plans to cut services provided by NOMBL
-- whether they're provided by NOMBL or RTA.
"Our west side
routes are very important to us," Calabrese said. "Look at the 53
route in North Olmsted. We considered changes and decided to leave
it as is."
are also monitoring the situation.
executive director of the Cleveland AFL-CIO, said his organization
is concerned about NOMBL.
is that until this current session, the most recent contracts had
gone smoothly," Ryan said. "If you run into a problem during a successful
marriage, you talk, you don't go after a divorce right away. I hope
that's what they do here."
Ryan said he's
sent letters to the parties involved and that area union members
are voting today on a resolution that would show support for NOMBL.
He said there
is concern about a potential loss of services and jobs if NOMBL
is merged into RTA.
"They go hand
in hand together," Ryan said. "If jobs are cut, services usually
ON THE NET:
NORTH OLMSTED MUNICIPAL BUS LINE:
GREATER CLEVELAND REGIONAL