With less than six months to go before the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is officially dissolved, one board member wants to know if the County Commission is doing enough to find jobs for staffers facing unemployment.
County officials are still working with PTC interim executive director Kevin Jackson on how the agency’s workload will be transitioned into other county departments after the Legislature passed a bill ordering the agency’s demise. As it stands, the Sheriff’s Office will pick up the enforcement of illegal towing practices, while Tax Collector Doug Belden’s office will administer public vehicle driving permits.
While some PTC staffers have already moved on to new jobs and others are currently interviewing for positions, “it’s possible that there will be employees that don’t have positions at that time,” Jackson told PTC board members Wednesday, referring to the official dissolution of the agency December 31.
Temple Terrace City Councilman (and PTC Board Member) David Pogorilich asked Jackson where was the Hillsborough County government at this time?
“All during our discussions with Uber and Lyft, it was ‘Oh, they have families to feed. They have mouths to feed,'” Pogorilich said.
“Our PTC inspectors and staff all have families and mouths to feed too,” Pogorilich added. “Is there any indication that Hillsborough County [is] going to pick up our staff?”
Jackson said that “some” PTC staffers will probably find jobs within the county and that Belden’s office may pick some staffers with institutional knowledge. But he could not state with certainty that all staffers will find work with the county.
Left unsaid was the fact that County Administrator Mike Merrill has already instituted a hiring freeze. He did that last month in anticipation of reduced revenues coming into the county’s coffers if a measure that expands the homestead exemption for homeowners in Florida that is on the 2018 ballot is approved by voters.
“I just would love to see if possible some better guarantees from the county or the tax collector’s office that are PTC employees, through no fault of their own, who are now looking for jobs, that there’s at least some guarantee for some positions when this transition finally takes place,” Pogorilich said.
PTC Chair Al Higginbotham said that a draft ordinance from the county is currently in the works that may address some of Pogorilich’s concerns.
The Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation supported a local bill to kill the PTC last December, and Tampa Republican Jamie Grant passed a bill in the House unanimously this spring, a bill that Governor Rick Scott recently signed.
Although the agency — created in the 1970s by a special act of the Legislature — had picked up critics over the years who believed there was no reason why Hillsborough was the only county in the state needing such an agency, those criticisms dramatically escalated over the past three years.
That’s when Uber and Lyft hit the region, revolutionizing pay-for-vehicle services in the county. While the services proved enormously popular with the public, they operated outside of PTC law for more than two years before being brought into compliance last fall.