The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

May 26, 2009

Koot Karts’ operator awaiting regulations

WINDBER — A week after a strong warning temporarily shut down its free ride service, Koot Kart leaders are frustrated by lack of information from the state Public Utility Commission.

The volunteer Windber-area transport vans resumed limited operations last week after the PUC received a complaint about alleged violations.

Although the letter did not list the infractions, it advised Koot Kart administrator Tableland Services Inc. to “cease and desist” from violations. The letter went on to warn that continued operations could draw a $1,000 fine for each violation.

After The Tribune-Democrat contacted the PUC on May 18, an agent called with some information and promised to provide more clarification, Tableland Executive Director Jeffery Masterson said. A week later, he’s still waiting.

“We have received no correspondence back from them,” Masterson said. “We still continue our limited service for Windber Borough and those with Windber addresses within Somerset County.”

Koot Karts are part of the legacy of Windber native John S. Koot, a World War II soldier who received the Silver Star for gallantry while battling the Japanese in the Philippines.

The John and Ann Koot Memorial Fund purchased the two Koot Karts in 2005 and has continued supporting the free program. Although it is run by volunteers, the Koot Kart service was placed under Tableland’s umbrella for tax and insurance purposes.

Because Tableland operates Somerset County’s transportation program under a state contract, Koot Karts must follow the same limitations.

PUC spokeswoman Denise McCracken said the Karts are not permitted to pick up Cambria County residents for transport to other Cambria County locations.

There also was a concern about the appearance of a fee-for-service violation because donation envelopes were available in the vans.

While exploring future options, service is not available to Cambria County residents in areas such as Scalp Level and Mine 37, and the envelopes have been removed, Masterson said.

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