Jake Dameron has a dilemma.

Dameron, Erath County branch supervisor for Transit System Inc., said the system’s fleet of smaller, more gas-efficient vehicles are old and “running out of life.”

One of the vehicles has 200,000 miles on it.

Another has 148,000 miles.

A third has 130,000 miles.

All are easily more than a decade old.

But Dameron, knowing the organization needs to replace the vehicles, has no funding to do so.

That’s why he’s asking the good citizens of Erath County to donate “good serviceable vehicles” to the transit system for use as transportation for individual passengers.

“They just really need to be replaced,” Dameron said. “When they get that many miles, they just get chancy. They’re running on borrowed time all the time.”

The federal government put up 80 percent of the purchase price of three relatively new 24-passenger buses, but they won’t pay for needed smaller vehicles, Dameron said.

The smaller vehicles - for individual transportation - are especially needed as gas prices escalate, he said.

He noted the city of Stephenville gives about $17,000 per year and Erath County about $5,000 a year to the transit system, which he said is comparable to a taxi service.

However, $22,000 doesn’t even cover gas costs that run about $3,000 a month - or about $36,000 per year, Dameron said.

He said he is hopeful the city and county will be able to contribute more money toward the transit system in the upcoming budget.

Transit System Inc. opened an office in Stephenville in 2002 to provide transportation for the citizens of Erath County.

Citizens are charged for using the service.

Riders in Stephenville pay $4. Senior citizens over 60 years old pay half price - or $2. Riders mainly are transported to places such as Bosque River Center, HEB, Wal-Mart and for medical care.

“We service everyone,” Dameron said. “We operate a taxi-like service for the citizens of Erath County, no matter where they are, no matter who they are.”

DOUG MYERS is Managing Editor of the Empire-Tribune. He can be reached at doug.myers@empiretribune.com or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.