Commissioners to consider starting a transit service

By: 
Amorette Allison
Star Staff Writer

The Custer County Commissioners will decide the fate of a proposed public transit service for the county next week.

The commissioners gathered public comment on the proposal Wednesday morning, and are slated to decide next Thursday if they will accept grants to cover part of the cost.

Commission Chairman Kevin Krausz said Wednesday that the commissioners received five comments about the proposal, all in favor of the commissioners accepting the transit grants that they applied for on Feb. 28.

The grant application by the Custer County Transit Authority Advisory Committee called for the purchase of two vehicles — a used conversion van that is handicapped accessible and a used mini-van for when a wheel-chair lift is not needed.

The grant money would be coming primarily from the Montana Department of Transportation. The county would provide matching funds of 20 percent, possibly through grants from other interested parties, such as the Billings Clinic and Holy Rosary Healthcare.

The vehicles would be open to the general public, and would require a small fare, which would provide a limited income stream. The grants are for $78,000 to purchase the vehicles and $63,000 for operating expenses for the first year. The operating grants are renewable annually.

If the system is implemented, the rides would have to be scheduled in advance. There are 37 such rural transit systems in Montana which run on an appointment system. 

Jan Pratt of the Custer Council on Aging said at the meeting in February that out-of-town trips, primarily to medical facilities in Billings, would also be possible.

 The exact funding structure and costs to the county, including administration and maintenance, will have to be determined.

Commissioner Keith Holmlund said that the financial aspects will be of primary concern at the Thursday discussion.

The Council on Aging had a similar program that ran from late 2010 to early 2012 but that program was dropped.

If the county accepts the grant and implements the transit system, a formal transit authority committee would have to be formed as an official county board with bylaws, scheduled meetings and appointed committee members. The details of the system would then be determined by the transit authority.

(Contact Amorette Allison at 406-234-0450 or mcreporter@midrivers.com.)

 

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