LEWISTON — Transit officials will bring in a national expert to audit maintenance and safety standards for the Twin Cities' Citylink bus system.
Phil Nadeau, chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee, said the group has hired Carlsbad, Calif.-based bus maintenance consultant Halsey King to review the bus system's records, inspect Citylink buses, review maintenance practices and analyze the operation's inventory and administrative practices.
King is scheduled to begin his review Monday.
It comes in response to a state audit performed in April and May that found 17 violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations in the bus fleet managed by Western Maine Transportation Services. They include nine violations for failing to keep appropriate maintenance records and eight for problems with anti-lock brake systems and speedometers.
The violations occurred with Western Maine's own fleet of 25 handicapped-accessible and on-demand buses.
"Clearly, there are parts of the state's report we want to respond to further," Nadeau said. "If you want to be the very best you can, you need someone who can show you the way. That's the scope of work we are expecting here."
The state review included a list of changes Western Maine was required to make. Those involved removing from service vehicles in need of state inspections, hosting safety seminars for Western Maine drivers and maintenance staff and keeping better records for all vehicles maintained by Western Maine. In addition to Citylink, the company manages the fleet for Sugarloaf's Mountain Explorer. It also operates its own on-demand, handicapped-accessible fleet.
Nadeau said Citylink's new study is not designed to challenge the state's findings.
"It's not an attempt to refute but to take our response to another level," Nadeau said. "It shows that Western Maine wants to go beyond the plan they've agreed to with the (Maine Department of Transportation)."
According to the contract signed by Western Maine, the transit committee and Halsey King and Associates, the company will review all maintenance practices, records and equipment for the Citylink fleet, inspect at least three of the buses, interview staff and file a report with the transit committee.
Nadeau said the transit committee is paying $5,000 of the costs for the $13,000 study. Western Maine is paying for the rest.
"It's not like there is a specific formula for fleets," Nadeau said. "Somebody like Halsey King can come along and give Western Maine a really good idea of what should be done and what works in other systems and show us what we need to do to be the very best in the state."
Overall, the transit committee owns 10 Citylink buses, and seven are out of service. Three of the fleet's four Blue Bird buses, purchased in 2006, are down for maintenance. One of the Blue Bird buses is in Scarborough waiting for a new engine and two are sidelined in Auburn waiting for a fuel-tank strap and turn-signal parts.
Two 2002 SLF buses are waiting for replacement parts, one for a new turn signal and another for problems with power. A 2008 Eldorado bus is sidelined for regular maintenance. One of the authority's three newest buses, a 2011 Gillig, is awaiting repairs for power issues.
Western Maine has been running buses from Mountain Explorer service on the Lewiston-Auburn routes.