CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board is beginning to plan for the retirement of longtime director Bill Volk, who said Wednesday that he will step down on June 30, 2014.
Volk, who will be 65 at that time, has been director of the MTD since 1974. He is believed to be the longest-serving transit director in the country.
Two MTD board members will meet with a search consultant next week, and the full board may begin working with Silver Spring, Md., search consultant Don Tebbe later this fall.
"We could schedule a study session or a planning sometime in September or October. He would lead it and explain to the board what goes on in a search, what decisions they would need to make before they go on a search, how a search might happen, how they might do a search," Volk said. "It would just give them a broad idea of what the process is. They've never done this before."
One unique issue, he said, "is that we have a different methodology of dealing with our employees than other transit systems do. I think it's safe to say there's generally an adversarial relationship between the management and most transit employees. That's not been our way of dealing with things. So it seems to me that one of the issues that they will deal with is how is this person going to deal with employees."
Don Uchtmann, the vice chair of the MTD board, said "it's important that we find good strong leadership. And we want to be deliberate in our process. We think a good first step is to meet with some folks who have conducted searches in the past or have worked with searches in the public sector, just to get some ideas about how such searches can be conducted effectively."
Uchtmann said he did not think the board was moving too early in planning for Volk's retirement.
"We don't want to be caught late in this process," he said.
Volk said he hopes to work part time for the MTD after his contract, signed almost 10 years ago, expires.
"I considered continuing on at a reduced level of hours but still overseeing things and making sure that the transition would occur," he said, "but you never know in public transit when something is going to go wacky and you end up spending 60 hours a week cleaning up a mess. I don't want to do that."
He said he has not discussed with the MTD board what his role would be after retiring.
"I'm not expecting to make money. My pension is going to be very good and I don't need to make any money," he said. "But I've invested my whole career here and I think I've still got something to contribute."
Volk said that Tebbe's firm, Transition Guides, won't necessarily run the search for his successor.
"We're only talking about having them do a planning session with the board to lay out for them what's involved in a search," he said.
At Wednesday's MTD meeting, the board approved two major agreements for service with the University of Illinois and the Champaign school district.
The MTD will be paid $4.8 million in the first year of a three-year contract with the UI. The agreement includes providing student, faculty and staff access to the MTD, plus continuation of late-night Safe Rides service, a route to Willard Airport and storage space for four UI disability resources and educational services buses. By the third year of the agreement the MTD will get $5.4 million from the UI. Last year the UI paid the MTD about $4.6 million.
The MTD also will get $312,600 this year for providing bus service to all middle and high school students in the Champaign school district. That represents a 2.5 percent increase from last year.
"It's a bargain for the community. Through our budget we're able to access state funding for it. And we're able to use a lot of regular routes buses for it," Volk told board members. "But certainly their cost per eligible students is one of the lowest in the state. They would have to provide a fleet of yellow buses to serve all the middle schools and all the high schools in their district."
Volk also said Wednesday that the state budget approved last spring includes a 10 percent increase in funding to the MTD this year. The agency will get $24.9 million in operating assistance from Springfield.
"State law says that the amount that (the Illinois Department of Transportation) will put in the state budget is to increase by 10 percent each year," he said. "Now the Legislature can change that and the governor can change that as well but they've continued to do that. I think part of the reason they've continued to do that is because they've not been matching for many years our capital grants."
Although the appropriation has been approved, no contracts have been signed yet, Volk said.