Kentucky state Sen. Gerald Neal questions toll-related jobs headed to Texas
Neal: It “does not make sense” that the data collection and other work couldn’t be located in the Louisville region.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – State Sen. Gerald Neal raised questions at a legislative meeting on Tuesday about the decision to choose Texas as the site of toll-related jobs for the Ohio River Bridges Project.
And in an interview, he said it “does not make sense” that the data collection and other work couldn’t be located in the Louisville region.
“I would be really interested in knowing how that evolved. I mean, we don’t have the capacity in Kentucky to put together the technical requirements to do a call center?” said Neal, a Democrat from Louisville.
A call center, customer service center and office processing toll transactions will be managed by Municipal Services Bureau, or MSB, of Austin, Texas. The company is a subcontractor to Kapsch TrafficCom, the firm Kentucky and Indiana chose to operate the all-electronic toll system on three Louisville-area bridges.
There will be two smaller customer-service centers in the Louisville area. One of the "walk-up" locations is across from Slugger Field downtown, while the other is in Jeffersonville, Ind.
MSB already provides work for seven tolling systems, including in Florida and Puerto Rico, according to a technical proposal. Megan McLain, an attorney for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, told lawmakers that the company’s experience is a benefit.
“It was very important for cost savings and time savings that we tap into an existing system and it was the way to make sure that the cost of the project and the tolls could stay the lowest,” she said at the meeting of the Kentucky legislature’s interim joint committee on transportation.
The states, working through the Indiana Finance Authority, awarded Kapsch a seven-year, $41.5 million contract last year.
“This was what we needed for the start up, but we will certainly evaluate that at the end of that term,” McLain said.
Besides Neal, Rep. Steve Riggs (D-Louisville) and a former bridge-toll consultant have questioned the Texas arrangement.
The company that oversaw Kapsch’s work on behalf of the states claims in court documents that it warned Kentucky and Indiana officials to expect “negative public reaction” to “well paying” jobs being located in Texas.
The eTrans Group sued Kentucky’s transportation and finance cabinets last week, claiming the state failed to justify its decision to cancel the $3.45 million contract.
WDRB News reported last fall that the toll-related jobs would be located in Texas. At the time, officials could not provide estimates on how many positions would be created.
On Tuesday, Neal asked McLain if there were “a number of jobs” as part of the Texas work.
“There are,” McLain responded.
Because two states are overseeing the bridges project, selecting a low bidder was the “best avenue to serve the taxpayers,” said Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville.
“This was done under the previous administration, and I think it was the right way to go,” he said.
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