Alabaster to vote on Clastran funding

Published 10:56 pm Thursday, March 14, 2013

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Alabaster City Council likely will decide during its March 18 meeting if it will provide funds to the Birmingham-based Clastran agency, council members said during a March 14 work session.

During the work session, the council said it will consider donating about $6,000 to the organization, which provides transportation for sick and elderly individuals in Shelby, Jefferson and Walker counties for $8 per round trip.

Alabaster City Manager George Henry said Clastran could use money it receives from Alabaster to help match 20 percent of a federal grant.

Council members discussed the matter after speaking with several Clastran representatives at the beginning of the work session. During the work session, Classtran Executive Director Fenn Church said the organization requested $23,000 from Alabaster after witnessing a rise in the number of rides linked to the city.

“You’re on track to hit 6,224 trips by the end of September. That’s the largest growth out of any city we serve in Jefferson, Shelby or Walker county,” Church said.

Church said Clastran’s computer system classifies rides based on their “origin of pickup,” and said Alabaster sees a large number of pickups from Shelby Baptist Medical Center. Many of the riders picked up at Shelby Baptist are not Alabaster residents, he said.

Church said Clastran has seen funding cuts from large entities such as Jefferson County.

“Our back is against the wall right now. Jefferson County and Shelby County used to support just about everything we did,” Church said.

Council President Scott Brakefield said $23,000 is significantly more than other Shelby County cities are being asked to contribute to Clastran, and Henry said 67 Alabaster residents currently utilize the service.

“The City Council is not disputing that this is a great service. But $23,000 is a nice chunk of change that’s not budgeted,” Brakefield said.

“We are not picking on Alabaster. We are going to go down the list of Shelby County cities (to request funding),” Church said.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Sophie Martin encouraged Church to seek grants and funding from private sector organizations such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and Shelby Baptist.

Henry said he and Shelby Baptist officials received calls from about 15 Alabaster residents in mid-February claiming they had been contacted by Clastran representatives. The residents claimed the Clastran representatives reported they would discontinue service to Alabaster if the city did not pay $23,000, Henry said.

“We have 15 people who called us and said the same thing,” Henry said of the calls he received from residents.

Ward 2 Councilman Bob Hicks said he “won’t endorse that kind of hard-ball politicking” if Clastran representatives contacted residents and threatened to stop service.

“I assure everyone in this room it wasn’t presented like that,” Church said.

Alabaster Mayor Marty Handlon said she has spoken with Alabaster Senior Center Manager Alicia Walters to potentially create a plan to offer transportation to seniors in case Clastran service is interrupted.