Even after the vote, Escambia County Commissioners were conflicted in their decision to send Veolia packing.
“I’m just torn, honestly,” said Commissioner Gene Valentino.
“Well, we’re all torn,” replied Commissioner Wilson Robertson
On a 3-2 split, the Commission voted to go against their staff’s recommendation and pass up Veolia Transportation in favor of pursuing a contract with the next company down their list, First Transit, Inc., to manage the Escambia County Area Transit system.
“It pains me to make this vote today,” said Commissioner Grover Robinson. “At the end of the day, I believe this is where I am.”
Following the vote, the board took a break to let the gallery full of transit employees and management empty the chambers.
“I have to be honest with you,” Veolia Transportation Regional Vice President Michael Ake said on the way out. “I think they make a very poor choice.”
Outside the county complex, transit union officials and bus employees felt differently. The hugged and congratulated each other.
“It was a win because we heard the right thing in there,” said Mike Lowery, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1395.
What they had heard was a board of commissioners that realized the workers were not happy with management. The situation had become what Commissioner Robertson called “in-correctable.”
“For that reason, I think it’s inevitable that we have to make a change,” Robertson had told his fellow commissioners just before the vote.
- check back for the full account of the Dec. 8 Escambia County Commission meeting