At the regular meeting of the Porterville City Council on Tuesday evening, the Council was asked to consider joining a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) in conjunction with the creation of the Tulare County Regional Transit Authority (TCRTA).

Ultimately, the Council chose to approve joining the JPA for the creation of the TCRTA with a vote of 5-0. Council member Virginia Gurrola was appointed as the city representative who will sit on the agency’s Board of Directors, and Vice Mayor Monte Reyes was appointed as the alternative representative for the city.

Michael Knight, the city’s Public Works Director, provided the Council with a report explaining what the JPA is and what the purposes of its formation are. Knight stated on April 20, the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) approved the JPA for circulation among Tulare County’s local governing bodies for approval. This included each city’s Council as well as the County Board of Supervisors.

The purposes of the JPA, as reported by Knight, are to implement a transit consolidation outline in the 2019 Tulare County Regional Transit Coordination study and to empower local Transit agencies to exercise common power by forming the JPA.

The JPA will give full power and authority to the TCRTA to own, operate, and administer public transportation systems throughout the jurisdictions of its member agencies (meaning the cities who approve joining the JPA). 

The JPA is an outline for the structure of development, including boundaries of agencies, agency powers, formation of a governing board including an appointed executive director, unanimous voting, dictation of the level of services provided to each participating jurisdiction, to apply for funds as a single entity and for the agency’s members to consider the transfer or retention of existing assets.

As of July 1, the cities of Exeter, Farmersville, Lindsay, and Tulare, as well as the County, have approved the JPA for the creation of the TCRTA, and will have representatives that sit on the agency Board of Directors. As of June 15, the City of Visalia opted out of the JPA and won’t be joining the agency board.

The JPA will benefit Transit riders by allowing for one entity (the TCRTA) to control the entire transit system throughout the county for participating jurisdictions. It also allows for consistent branding, fair structures, consistent service hours and days, and rider-focused planning.

On Tuesday, the Council was faced with two options, to approve joining the JPA or to decline participation.

Council member Gurrola and Mayor Martha Flores both expressed their excitement about the JPA and reflected on how long this has been in the making. Flores shared she could recall a time when the JPA was just a conversation, and was glad to finally see it come to fruition.

Gurrola said coming together as a regional entity is a benefit, and allows for a seamless Transit system that can benefit the community. She also stated the JPA and formation of the TCRTA will allow for the participating cities to apply as a single entity for transportation funds and the TCRTA is a “win-win situation.”

City Manager John Lollis stated the JPA will enable the City of Porterville to compete better for transportation grants, as a part of the TCRTA, versus having to apply for funds as an independent city.

Ted Smalley, the Director of TCAG, praised Porterville’s current Transit system and stated Porterville is on the forefront of Transit services.

“I think everyone looks to you as a leader and I think people want to be like Porterville when it comes to Transit,” said Smalley. “I think this JPA will also bring us together. I think this will be positive.”

When asked about the city’s possible financial contributions to the JPA, Smalley because the TCRTA budget is still unknown, the City can’t determine its contribution to the JPA just yet. However, when the budget is drafted, it will require unanimous approval, which means every city participating in the JPA will have a say as to where the money in the budget should go.

Before the matter went to a vote, Reyes begged the question as to just how much autonomy the city would have if it chose to join the JPA. Smalley replied by saying Porterville would have “great autonomy” in the setting of its own level of transportation services in the city, and Porterville could be possibly used as a model for other citys as they set their own levels of service.

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