RTA bus contractor responds to employee schedule complaint

County commissioner brings up issues

By Mark Reaman

Admitting there have been some bumps as the company expanded between the fall and winter bus schedules, Landon Ogilvie, owner of Alpine Express, the company that is contracted to run the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) buses, said it does what it can to accommodate employees but that is not always possible.

The issue came up at the December 8 RTA board meeting when board member and county commissioner Laura Puckett Daniels told the board she had been approached by a disgruntled employee who was upset about scheduling. She said the employee told her as a political representative that they didn’t feel the schedule was meeting their needs and wasn’t taking into consideration longtime service to the bus company. Puckett Daniels said she also heard of “hiccups in the operations” of the company.

“I felt like this board needed to hear that there were some complaints and frustration surfacing. To me the bigger picture question is we’re spending a ton of public money to recruit drivers — for example millions of dollars for things like housing. So, the question is, what are we doing to retain drivers? Retaining employees is as valuable as recruiting employees.”

RTA executive Scott Truex cautioned the board to be careful given the direction of the conversation since Alpine Express is a private company contracted by the RTA to provide bus service between Gunnison and Mt. Crested Butte.

“It’s a publicly funded organization,” said Puckett Daniels.

“I can’t talk specifics about personnel issues in a public forum, but I agree it is an interesting time when you scale up for winter with 41 round trips per day,” said Ogilvie. “Inevitably you will have a handful of folks that don’t like some of the change. So, there was some frustration over how we were going to handle the 41 routes. We can do it with 50 drivers or 25-27 drivers. We have to adjust the schedule to be economic for you guys. I can’t come back here and say I need another million dollars to run this because people want to work when they want to work. It is challenging but we have met the demand. And I would appreciate in the future if you just give us a call if there’s a problem.”

Puckett Daniels said she felt it was worth a public discussion.

Ogilvie emphasized that juggling the parts to keep the buses running efficiently while handling 41 roundtrips a day is not easy, but it is getting done. Sometimes drivers from his other transit operations in Colorado are brought in and put up in hotels to cover shifts for the local RTA.

“We are running the company in a way that is economically feasible for you guys and us as well,” he said. “We had some bumps in the beginning of the season, but it worked out. I agree that driver retention is the most important thing for a number of reasons, including continuing the service.”

Board member Anna Fenerty asked Ogilvie where his human resources office is located and how that impacts operations in Gunnison County.

“I’m not going to get into a discussion of our company’s work chart,” he responded. “But I will say we have management personnel here in the valley. The service here has grown so much that it’s changed a lot given the amount of service. We are doing what we must to keep up with your requests for expansion.”

Puckett Daniels said she wanted to make sure the voices of her constituents were heard in a public way, and she opined that that sometimes meant bringing up uncomfortable topics in a public forum that led to awkward discussion.

Okay then, check.

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