Thursday, May 22, 2003
Bus Line Cuts
On Monday, May 19, the board of directors of Monterey-Salinas Transit met to decide which bus lines will be reduced to meet current budget demands, as the local public transit system faces a the same kind of crunch that is hurting all aspects of state and local government. After taking public comment at hearings in Salinas and Monterey, the bus service was able to reduce costs by reducing frequency of service on some lines without having to lay-off drivers or raise fares.
"We're trying to minimize it as much as we can," says Frank Lichtanski, MST general manager.
The 2004 MST budget is $22 million, a 10 percent reduction from the previous year, due to rising costs and funding cuts. The bulk of funding comes via the state from a local transportation fund, which is a quarter-cent piece of sales tax.
Due to the poor economy there is less money in that fund than in previous years. Rather than raise fares, which are already at a high $1.75 for a ride, duplicate service was cut from existing lines.
At public hearings earlier in May, the public voiced its concerns about reduced bus service. About 30 people attended two meetings in Monterey and Salinas. Riders from Salinas were particularly concerned about reducing night service, which many riders use to get home from work on the Peninsula. Those lines were not cut, but lines throughout the system were reduced from service every half-hour to hourly service. For more information consult www.mst.org or call 899-2555. [AS]
Vet Program May Be Hoofin' It
Hartnell College's Animal Health Technology Program may be soon put out to pasture.
A two-year associate's degree program that prepares students to be registered veterinary technicians (RVTs) with the state is no longer going to be accepting new students.
"We're like the RNs of the veterinary world," says Diana Baldwin, who graduated from the program last year, and is organizing a fundraising drive to save the program. "With this training we can do things that untrained techs can't, like lab work, X-rays, and dental cleanings."
Baldwin says that facing state budget cuts, Hartnell has decided to eliminate the 26-year-old program--which may be more expensive to keep than other programs without such extensive lab training.
Hartnell has a small flock of sheep and two horses to learn skills such as administering injections. Baldwin says that the extensive out-of-classroom experience sets the school apart from other facilities.
"What's unique about this program is that you get a really well-rounded background," she says. "A lot of schools have no large animals. When you take the state test you have no doubt that you are prepared. We have had consistently one of the highest pass rates in California. Out of 300 students who have taken the state board, we've only had three who didn't pass."
Baldwin has joined with other students and faculty to attempt to raise $400,000-enough to cover four years of the program's costs. She says that several area vets have already donated in support of the program.
"I'd be surprised if you could find a local clinic that hasn't used one of our students," she says. "Without us, doctors are spending too much time doing lab work and X-rays that they could designate to a technician."
According to Baldwin, there are eight jobs for every one technician in California, and the next closest school with a similar training program is in Palo Alto. She emphasizes the need for well-trained vet assistants to help out busy veterinarians.
"In places that I've worked, I've seen a varying degree of skill level," she says. "With this program, I think that the ethics and values that are instilled allow the techs to be a second set of eyes for vets. If I take my animal to a clinic, I want the person working there to be able to catch smaller things."
To support the Animal Health Technology fundraising effort, visit www.savevettechs.com [BW]