ABC 20 Streaming LiveSpotlight 20Pump PatrolPay It ForwardFriday Night Rivals40 Yard ChallengeScholar Athlete


FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy and cooler. High: 67. Winds: North 10-15 mph.

FRIDAY NIGHT: Mostly clear and chilly. Low: 43. Winds: Northeast 5-10.


more »

Advertise with us!

Newsroom :: Waste Watch  - Waste Watch: A Ride on Your Dime Part 2

Waste Watch: A Ride on Your Dime Part 2

Watch Part 1 of this two-part special report.
Mass transit across the country is subsidized with tax dollars. It always has been, and probably always will be. Springfield is no different. However, nearly all of the Springfield Mass Transit District's budget comes from three tax sources.

The system struggles to put people on its buses. But as we said in Part 1 of our story, there's a definite need for transit here. Our question was whether it needs to be this large.

Now, in Part 2 of A Ride on Your Dime, we look to see if there's wasteful spending by the SMTD, and we examine whether the head of the transit system, whose salary comes from your tax dollars, is qualified to run the SMTD.
According to the SMTD's own stats from the last three years, just 8 percent of those yearly budgets came form the fare box. Federal, state, and Sangamon County taxes covered the other 91 percent.

Those same stats show that on average, six out of every 10 bus seats go empty.

It appears there is a small but dedicated ridership that depends on the buses because they have no other way to get around. So yes, there is a need for public transportation here. But does it need to be this large? ABC Newschannel 20's Vince DeMentri posed this question to SMTD Managing Director Frank Squires.

"I'm thinking," he said after a pause. "I'm not--I'm thinking--I want to give you an answer here. Just a good 10-second soundbite here. Repeat your question one more time?"

So we did.

"No, I am not going to say that we're--let me start again," Squires said.

When he did, Squires spent the next several minutes comparing the SMTD to larger transit systems like Chicago's. But he never did answer the question.

So we looked to see if there were places to trim the fat. According to Squires, the SMTD has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last 15 years to belong to state and national associations that lobby on behalf of all mass transit. We asked Squires if he could point to one thing that any of these groups did that benefits the SMTD directly.

"These are associations, Vince, that the district has belonged to since I was a board member 14 years ago," he said.

"So because you belong to it for 14 years, you just continue to do it without thinking that, 'Hey, maybe this is cost we can do without?,'" we asked him.

"Vince, I will have to bring that before the board," he said. "The board makes the decisions as to what we belong to and what we don't belong to."

From 2007 to 2012, the SMTD spent $150,000 to belong to a group known as Q5. It's the economic arm of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. Its mission is job growth and retention.

We asked Squires how Q5 helped put people on buses.

"If Q5 and the partnership of Q5 can help create more jobs in this town on all economic levels, that will increase--create a need for more ridership, and they can start to use the bus," he said.

"But they haven't?," we asked.

Squires did not answer.

In fact, in its first five years, Q5 didn't come close to its job creation goals. The SMTD just re-upped its contract with Q5 for more than $150,000 over the next five years.

Squires has been the SMTD's top man since last September. He recently retired as an investigator with the Department of Corrections. He has no hands-on transit or management experience. He did spend the last 14 years on the board that oversees the SMTD--the last five of those as chairman.

There are seven board members. All are appointed by the Sangamon County Board of Supervisors.

We asked Squires what qualifies him to run the show.

"What I bring to the board as a board member was, I grew up in the city of Springfield," he said after a pause. "I rode the bus as a kid. I'm well aware of things--of the bus district. Come over here, I lend my life experience, work experience, to working for the district."

As chairman, Squires was unanimously approved for the director's job by the remaining board members. There was no job search conducted. That made us wonder--how did Squires' Department of Corrections experience make him board-worthy?

"I was appointed to the board," he said.

We asked him how.

"I was appointed to the board by the then-county board chairman," he said.

We asked him who that was.

"That was my mother," he said.

We then asked Squires if he thought his appointment to the board by his mother was nepotism. He said he didn't think it applied.

Squires' salary is $102,000.
Several viewers went to Facebook to comment on Part 1 of this story.

James Caruso of Rochester wrote, "You could run a half-hour Waste Watch program every day in this city/state. This is excellent reporting! It's about time our state legislature and local services are exposed for their wasteful spending."

Kellie Cravens of Springfield wrote, "I seriously disliked the angle and attitude you approached SMTD. Not really interested in watching this kind of story. How did they become so awful? Unnecessary pointless drama. I felt sorry for the SMTD rep. Pretty cheap shot."

We appreciate all of your comments.
Our approach to the story was simple. In these tight budget times, the SMTD spends tens of millions of tax dollars on a service used by a small percentage of people.

No one is arguing we need bus service here. But does it need to be this large? And who is in charge of those millions of tax dollars?

As for Vince's interview with Squires, Squires knew we were going to talk to him about the SMTD's low ridership, its funding, and its spending. He had two weeks to prepare for that interview.
Watch Part 1 of this two-part special report.
Watch Vince DeMentri's interview with Frank Squires in its entirety.
Share your comments on this story on our Facebook page.

Waste Watch: A Ride on Your Dime Part 2

Wednesday, April 23 2014, 10:23 AM CDT



ABC NewsChannel 20 is stepping up.
You can join our "Waste Watch".
If you have a government waste story,
Call us at 217-753-5656, or submit a tip below.

Submit a Waste Watch Tip

Your Name:
Daytime Phone:
Evening Phone:
Waste Watch Tip:
Please re-enter the code shown in the image below.
Thank you!
You will be returned to the home page upon submission.
(Please only hit the submit button once.)

National Video Stories

Pork By Any Other Name is Still Pork
Federal Workers Owe $3.5 Billion in Back Taxes
Will the US ever reduce the number of people dependent on Food Stamps?
Mad Rush To Spend Taxpayer Money
Army Can't Track Spending On A System Designed To Track Spending
Did The U.S. Need A New Military Facility?
How About A Bowl Of Pork To Go With A Plate Of Defense
How Will Hurricane Tax Dollars Be Spent This Time?
Lunch On Taxpayers
A Fishy Federal Program
Should Taxpayers Pay For All Research Studies?
Charitable Misgiving
Taxpayer Subsidized Plane Rides
Tax Breaks For Oil And Gas Companies
DOE Giving Away Money
Federal Building Makeovers
More Food Stamps, Fewer Women Working Full Time
The Top Taxpayer Flops, Follies, & Fiascoes
Stimulus Spending Goes To The Dogs
Federal Employees Fly First Class
A Movie Ending That Only Hollywood Loves
Farm Bill More Pork, Less Beef
Lunch On Taxpayers
The Waste Between The Lines
U.S. Spends Billions Helping Foreign Countries Fight Climate Change
The Wastebook
Health and Human Services Wastes Millions on Cancer Drug
Waste In Washington
Your Tax Dollars Used for Big Screen Televisions, Jewelry, Art, and More
Tracking Your Tax Dollars
How Much Fraud is Connected to Social Security Disability Benefits?
Surgery often covered by Medicare is raising eyebrows
Are Maryland Lawmakers Taking Vacations on Your Dime?
Is playing the Powerball a bad bet?
Foreign Research Projects: What do Taxpayers get?
What did Taxpayers get for $50 million?
Big Government
IRS Conferences
Disability Nation
Teaching Fish how to Survive
Teaching Poetry to Prisoners
Do We Still Need DHS?
Free Phones
Feds and Meds
Pole Dancing
Payday Loans
The Cost of Amnesty
Making Tough Cuts
The Business Reality of Obamacare
Federal Government Duplication
Taxpayers Pay for Nothing
Abusing a Federal Program
Medicaid Mess
Victims of Government
Taxpayers Bail Out Carnival
Congress is Still Flying the World Over
The Show Goes on at the White House, Despite Sequester
The Cost of Redundacy
A Long Wait for Veterans
Presidents Cost Millions
Graphic Federal Ad Campaign to get People to Stop Smoking
Tax Liens Could Doom Federal Workers
The IRS Star Trek Spoof
Golf but no Tours
How Taxes Mold a State
Congress and Pay
The Rich and Taxes
Immigration Reform
Job Training
Missed Taxes
Congressional Perks
Tracking Federal Money
The 112th Congress
Good Deal or Dud for Taxpayers?
Some Lawmakers are Addicted to Tobacco Cessation Money
Loan a Drone
Sen. Coburn Says Yes to Tax Hikes
Spending at the Department of Homeland Security
Waste at the Pentagon
Sandy Relief
Utility Waste
Fiscal Cliff
Mortgage Interest Deduction
Fourth Major 'Green' Company Files for Bankruptcy Under the Obama Administration
The Waste Book
Tank Spending
Medicare Fraud, Waste & Abuse
Fiscal Cliff
Romney Remarks Backlash
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency Funds a Newspaper
Production Halted on the Chevy Volt
Senator Tom Coburn Talks About Waste at the Congressional Level
Federal Pay Freeze Extended
Making Money Off a Storm
Political Ads or the Official Business of the White House?
A Federal Program Designed to Help Disabled Veterans Grow Small Businesses Handed Out Tens of Millions of Dollars to Everyone but Disabled Veterans
The Food Stamp Program Costs Taxpayers About $80 Billion a Year and Critics Say a Large Percentage of that is Tied to Waste, Fraud and Abuse
GSA Caught on Another Spending Spree
How Much Did that Rap Video Cost You?
Taxpayers Shell out Millions for the House and Senate
Do Lawmakers Spend too Much Time and Money on Resolutions?
Congress Spends Millions on Printing Costs
Senate Dems Spend Millions Debating Bill That Won't Pass
Fisker Gets $200 Million Grant But Produces No Cars
Congress Spending Thousands of Dollars Every Month on Bottled Water
Congress Spending Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars on Calendars
Lawmaker Call For End of Free Cell Phone Program
Advertise with us!

  • WICS :: News - Connect to Congress

    Connect to Congress

  • WICS :: News - City In Crisis

    City In Crisis

  • WICS :: News - Crime Map

    Crime Map

  • WICS :: News - Traffic


    Get up to the minute traffic reports from WICS NewsChannel 20!
  • WICS :: News - Health Matters

    Health Matters

    Featuring news segment videos about health.
  • WICS :: News - In The Kitchen

    In The Kitchen

    Watch the area's best chefs whip up their tastiest creations. See them in action and get their recipes to try at home. 
  • WICS :: News - Behind The Headlines

    Behind The Headlines

    Get Behind the Headlines commentary with Mark Hyman.
  • WICS :: News - Ready, Set, Shred

    Ready, Set, Shred

    In an exclusive eight-week investigation, ABC Newschannel 20 digs deep into the Springfield police document shredding scandal.
  • WICS :: News - Pay it Forward

    Pay it Forward

    Pay It Forward... because sometimes people need a little extra help.
  • WICS :: News - Ask the Expert

    Ask the Expert

    Do you need expert advice? Here's your chance to ask our experts!
  • WICS :: News - Your Voice. Your Future.

    Your Voice. Your Future.

    As the country faces challenges from federal budget issues to jobs and national debt, your voice is critical to the future.
  • WICS :: News - Road Trippin

    Road Trippin

    Come Road Trippin' with us! Check out all the great attractions in your area!
  • WICS :: News - Pump Patrol

    Pump Patrol

    Check out the ABC Newschannel 20's Pump Patrol to find the lowest prices, report low prices and get gas saving tips.

  • WICS :: News - Spotlight 20

    Spotlight 20

    Local organizations and community leaders tell us about events in central Illinois.
  • WICS :: News - Raw News

    Raw News

    Watch extra news footage, full interviews, and extended stories that didn't make it on air.  "Raw News" may include content that is not suitable for children and is intended for mature audiences only.
  • WICS :: News - On the Farm

    On the Farm

    Whether it's topical segments on what's happening on local farms to commodity prices, we have the world of central Illinois agriculture covered.
  • WICS :: News - Fugitive Files

    Fugitive Files

  • WICS :: News - Home Room

    Home Room

    When's the next school board meeting? Where's the basketball game? What's for lunch today? Do we have a snow day tomorrow? We have all the information you need for a successful school year--no pencil or ...
  • WICS :: News - No Text Zone

    No Text Zone

    Texting while driving kills thousands of people each year. Many more are seriously injured.  Keep central Illinois roads safe by taking the "No Text Zone" pledge.
  • WICS :: News - Business News

    Business News

    Stay up-to-date on the biggest business stories from around the nation.
  • WICS :: News - Pet of the Week

    Pet of the Week

    The cutest video you'll see anywhere! You won't be able to resist these adorable friends who need someone to love them.
  • WICS :: News - Waste Watch

    Waste Watch

    How are your tax dollars being spent? Waste Watch tracks whether local, state and federal governments are using your money wisely...or wasting it.
  • WICS :: News - Washington Times

    Washington Times

    Politics, Breaking News, US and World News.
  • WICS :: News - Health Care Reform

    Health Care Reform

    The Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act sparked a new battle. Check here daily for the latest developments, locally and across the country.

more »

Tonight on WICS

7:00 - Shark Tank
8:00 - What Would You Do?
9:00 - 20/20
10:00 - NewsChannel 20 at 10

Complete Schedule »

WICS Pay It Forward
Buzzed Driving Prevention PSA
WICS Cheers For The Years
Jimmy Kimmel
WICS Storm Team