CHAMPAIGN — Before conducting a broader search, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board members will look inside the organization for a possible successor to longtime Managing Director Bill Volk.
Volk, who has headed the bus system since 1974, announced last year that he plans to retire in June 2014.
Board members also learned Wednesday that the district's health care costs could increase 20 percent or more because of the federal Affordable Care Act and that as many as seven separate annexations into the MTD could take place this year.
Board members voted Wednesday to ask MTD employees if they are interested in the managing director's position. Board Chairman Don Uchtmann said he will ask internal applicants to express their interest in the position by mid-March. Applicants would be reviewed promptly, he said.
"I think we should look internally because we've done well so far, and we want to continue the stability," said board member Linda Bauer, who made the motion to begin the search inside the organization. "Knowing about the MTD is important, so let's look at internal candidates. This is where we start, to maintain the excellence we've had so far."
Bauer said she didn't know whether there would be any internal applicants.
"I don't know what's going to happen when we look internally," she said. "We may have one candidate. We may have 10 candidates. Maybe none of them will meet the criteria. Maybe all of them will meet the criteria. I'm not too concerned about the external part of the search yet because I want to see what's internal.
"But I'm not precluding an external search, I'm just saying that I would see us posting this internally, gathering resumes, evaluating those and based on what see there, then making another decision."
Also Wednesday, Volk warned the board that next year's budget would be affected by a number of issues, especially a provision of the new health care act that says that all employees who work at least 30 hours a week are considered full-time. The MTD has about 50 part-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week, he said.
"We've got a lot of work to do on this yet, but this potentially has a major impact on the budget next year," he said. "Particularly issues with the Affordable Care Act and their costs may have an impact on wage adjustments, on service improvements and it may have an impact on the type of health insurance we offer in terms of deductibles ... and employer contributions."
Later, Volk said that the federal law could add as much as $500,000 to the MTD's annual health care bill, which this year is $2.7 million.
"We've got a lot of balls up in the air now and we've got to figure out what we can afford and how we go about it," he said. "This may be a difficult process and you're going to have to have some patience with us."
Board members also were told that the MTD later this year would begin the process to bring seven separate areas of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy into the MTD district. The annexations are part of a longtime intergovernmental agreement to bring areas into the MTD as they are annexed into the cities.
The areas are: the Prairie Meadows subdivision in Savoy, the Stone Creek and Southridge subdivisions in Urbana and the Windsor West Apartments/YMCA area of Champaign, along with the Sawgrass and Boulder Ridge subdivisions and an area on the outskirts of west Champaign.
Separate hearings would have to beheld on each of the annexations, Volk said. He said he did not know the total acreage of assessed valuation of the properties.
Also Wednesday, the board reviewed plans to demolish the 1974-era bus garage at 801 E. University Ave., U, and to build a two-phase addition, probably in 2014 and 2015. The old garage is not tall enough to accommodate the MTD's hybrid buses.
And board members were told that ridership is up 7.2 percent so far this year, was up by 17.2 percent in January, and that February totals will be approximately 1.36 million, the second-highest monthly figure in the bus system's history.