Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Emissions-testing firm frustrates Metro
Company is slow to deliver on services promised last year By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • April 8, 2008 The company that took over Metro Nashville's vehicle emissions-testing work last year, with great fanfare about its customer-friendly plans, has tested some city officials' patience by failing to add several features after nine months on the job. SysTech International has been slow to put in additional testing lanes, though a new one opened in Hermitage on Monday and others are under construction. The Murray, Utah-based company also still needs to introduce vans for mobile testing and cameras that can help document wait times. "It's safe to say we're ready to see this thing finalized and the plan take shape like it should have taken when the contract was signed," said Bill Hance, chairman of the Metro Health Board, which plans to discuss the issue at its monthly meeting today. "There are people on the board who are getting very impatient — me, for one," Hance added. SysTech's president said he understands the frustrations and that the company is getting close to completing the changes it promised when it signed a five-year contract with Metro. SysTech gets to keep $5.50 from every $9 emissions test, with Metro pocketing the other $3.50; the previous contractor, Envirotest, received $8.20 from each test, which cost $10 at the time, and gave the remaining $1.80 to the city. "We feel we can address their concerns," said Lothar Geilen, president and co-owner of SysTech. "We take them very seriously, I can tell you that. We have to work with the board for a long period of time, so if they're not satisfied with our performance, that affects us for the long term." About 600,000 vehicles are tested each year in Metro. Envirotest still runs the emissions testing program in Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson counties under a contract with the state. Geilen said several issues, including weather and challenges of adding onto existing buildings, slowed the company down after it took over July 1. SysTech initially planned to build six facilities, and still owns four Nashville properties it's not using, but ultimately decided to move into and expand Envirotest's stations. The company opened a third testing lane at the Stoner Bend Drive station in Hermitage on Monday, adding two new inspection positions. Drivers who were there about 12:30 p.m. said their experience was smooth. "I was surprised, because I've got three vehicles, and normally I sit way back here," retiree George Rylander said at the point where the station's exit and entrance intersect. "I couldn't believe I went right through. And (the testing fee) went down a dollar, too." New lanes to openSysTech also plans to open new lanes at the Westbelt Drive and Dickerson Road stations by the end of the month, Geilen said. Fred Huggins, director of the vehicle inspection program for the Metro Health Department, said it would have been "logistically impossible" for SysTech to have everything in place by July 1. But nine months later, he said, Metro Health is ready to see everything it signed up for.
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