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Wrong year for a taxi? It was for New Berlin senior service program

Senior taxi service got a deal that created a bumpy fiscal ride

Feb. 24, 2014

New Berlin — Caught up in the excitement of snagging a bargain, leaders of the New Berlin Senior Taxi accidentally bought a 2012 minivan with grant money that was supposed to be used for operations.

The Senior Taxi gets an $8,000 grant every other year for operations, but it can ask for money for new vehicles on the off years, said Bill Zaborowski, a member of the Senior Tax board of directors and a Waukesha County supervisor.

When the brand new Dodge minivan became available from Waukesha County for only $15,500, the board jumped at the bargain, never once thinking about whether it was the vehicle year or the operating money year, Zaborowski said.

"It was our mistake," Zaborowski said. "We jumped at an opportunity and everybody forgot."

Waukesha County, which had to sell the minivan to a nonprofit agency, sold the minivan to Senior Taxi at the county cost, which is normally much lower than it would be on showroom floors, Zaborowski said. The 2012 minivans listed at $19,000 to $22,000, acording to two metropolitan area Dodge dealerships.

"Looking back, we should have asked the county to hold onto it for three months," which would have put the sale in the vehicle purchasing year of 2013, Zaborowski said, but nobody thought of it at the time.

The taxi receives grants of federal dollars administered through the Community Development Block Grant program administered by Waukesha County. It was through the administration of that program that the slip-up was discovered.

Taxi officials had to explain what happened to the Community Development Block Grant Board on Feb. 12. The board was willing to let the taxi off the hook and use car money for operational expenses in 2013 if it provides proof of those expenses, which has now been furnished, Zaborowski said.

"The taxi (service) is definitely not in any trouble," said Kristin Silva, community development coordinator for Waukesha County who oversees block-grant funding.

The policy of alternating funding years makes the program easier to administer, but harder to keep track of which year is which, Silva acknowledged.

"It's a newer policy and I think there's been some confusion over which year is funded," she said.

But all has apparently ended well. The minivan is now the lead vehicle in the taxi service, ferrying seniors to destinations for appointments or for fun. Seniors pay for the rides which helps offset expenses, which are now much lower because their ride is so new, Zaborowski said.

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