Weather Forecast


Touted KAT employee has been named replacement for Groothuis

WILLMAR -- Tiffany Collins, who has been second in command at the Kandiyohi Area Transit since it was started in 1999, was hired Monday as transit director.

She'll take over Jan. 7 from John Groothuis, who is leaving to take a state transit job with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in St. Paul.

During a special meeting Monday, KAT's joint power's board unanimously voted to hire Collins. She was hired at a salary of $50,000 a year plus benefits. The executive committee of KAT's operation board had recommended Collins for the position. The job was posted internally and four applications were submitted. The committee interviewed two candidates.

"She stood out in the interview," said Kevin Halliday, Willmar city clerk and a member of the executive committee.

Collins said she's eager to take on the challenges facing KAT, including putting together the 2009 budget, implementing a fare increase Jan. 2 and getting a new northwest commuter route up and running in March.

"I'm looking forward to those things," Collins said. She said she'll spend the next week learning as much as she can from Groothuis before he leaves.

Groothuis had high praise for Collins and her knowledge of the day-to-day operations of the transit system. "She's been an outstanding employee for KAT," he said.

Groothuis was KAT's first transit director and helped develop the countywide system. He'd been on the job a month before he hired Collins as operations manager 9½ years ago.

Collins said she and Groothuis "worked well side by side to make KAT what it is today."

Collins, her husband, Keith, and their three children live in Kerkhoven.

The board also heard from Ken Pautz who claims his son's masonry business is still owed $2,500 for work it provided on KAT's $138,000 downtown bus shelter. The company was a sub-contractor hired by Gopher State Contractors, which KAT had hired as the general contractor.

Pautz said because KAT is the owner of the shelter they should resolve the conflict.

"It's not a lot of money, but we're owed the money," said Pautz, who had also made his case to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners earlier this month.

Groothuis said the issue is complicated and should be resolved by the contractors and architect. He also said KAT employees had received harassing phone calls Pautz's associates about the unpaid bill.

Kandiyohi County Commissioner Richard Falk, who is a member of the joint powers board, was not pleased that Gopher State Contractors had been paid all but $7,000 of their $81,000 contract when there were unresolved issues with the project. KAT has lost its "leverage" with the contractor by awarding most of the payments. Falk said KAT's architect, Engan Associates, should handle the dispute.

In other action:

? KAT's 2009 state allocation may not be cut during the state's budget-cutting process. Bev Hirfindahl, from MnDOT's transit department, said KAT may be spared because its increase was just 3 percent. Other transit systems that had been set to receive larger increases, however, may see their allocations reduced, she said.

? Approval was given to purchase two new buses. A replacement bus will cost $62,259, and a new bus that will be used for the northwest Willmar commuter route will cost $64,426. KAT will pay 20 percent of the cost with the remainder coming from a federal grant.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750