Erath County’s relationship with The Transit System, Inc., based in Glen Rose, has deteriorated to the point that it’s virtually nonexistent.

Concerned citizens and community leaders from Dublin and Stephenville met Friday morning at the Erath County Courthouse to discuss options for transportation for the elderly and disabled.

Erath County Judge Tab Thompson recommended dissolving the current contract and starting anew with Central Texas Rural Transit District currently doing business as City and Rural Rides based in Coleman.

“We’re not here to look at what went wrong, we’re here to see what we can do to improve,” Thompson said. “The transit system in Coleman may be the best option. They serve 10 counties currently. We feel like we would be a good fit with that system and could receive better rates and service.”

Thompson solicited the audience for opinions and the general consensus was for approval of the Coleman system.

Thompson said a primary concern he had was to be sure that the vehicles transferred from the current system would not be “sluff off, old vehicles.”

Mary Hopson with TX Dot addressed the concern and said she thought she would be able to arrange adequate and appropriate vehicles for the transfer.

“We want what we deserve to take to the new company,” Thompson said.

Darlene Gaitan, executive director of Erath County Senior Citizens, Inc., said the current system is cost prohibitive for residents with a trip from Dublin to Stephenville costing as much as $11.25. Citizens who are 60 and older receive a half price rate, which was more reasonable but still expensive for some, she said.

Gaitan said she has had recent complaints from riders about rude dispatchers and long waiting periods for transportation with some elderly riders being dropped off then unable to receive a ride back home for an hour and a half.

J.R. Salazar, general manager for Coleman, said he was confident the level of service from his company would be a drastic improvement for Erath County citizens.

He said the fare for roundtrip within the city would be $2. Other trips go up $1 for each five-mile increment.

Salazar said his company requires board representation by either the county judge or a county commissioner.

Salazar said dispatching for Erath County would occur in Coleman and he would make sure his employees had Erath County tours and training to be able to service residents in the best possible manner.

“We would love to be the provider here,” Salazar said.

Thompson said he plans to move forward with necessary resolutions to dissolve the current contract and begin the new one with Coleman at the next commissioners’ court meeting.

ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at angelia.joiner@empiretribune.com or 254-965-3124, ext. 238.