2013-08-22 / Front Page

Funds could equal rides

County transit seeks mils to expand hours

MANISTIQUE – In an effort to expand its services, the Schoolcraft County Public Transit will be seeking a slight boost to its current millage in November. The additional assessment amount will be requested as part of a renewal request for the millage, which is set to end this year.

During a Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Commissioner Craig Reiter outlined the millage request, noting the transit is attempting to meet the needs of its ridership. According to Reiter, transit will request .587 mils to be approved by taxpayers – up slightly from the .5 mils currently assessed.

While Reiter explained the transit board and transit director, John Stapleton, acknowledged the unfortunate timing of the request – it will likely appear on the ballot with a Schoolcraft County Medical Care Facility millage request – he noted the overall benefit of expanded transit services has the potential to impact a large number of residents. Expanded services will primarily include the addition of hours, such as Friday and Saturday morning and night service hours.

The addition of these hours, in particular, would allow the transit to be utilized by patrons needing a ride from or to special events, such as weddings, Folkfest, Independence Day celebrations,

New Year’s Eve, etc., or just weekend necessities, such as doctor visits or trips to the grocery store.

“It would untie the hands of transit and allow them to really give some good service for the community,” he said.

Currently, transit services generally end at 4 p.m. each Friday afternoon and do not begin again until Monday at 8 a.m. This millage would allow transit to possibly expand its hours to include Mon. and Fri. from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and Friday and Saturday evenings from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. While the exact hours are still being determined,

Reiter said transit is looking to encompass times requested by the general public.

“It’s going to extend the services for the people that use it,” he said.

Commissioner Dan LaFoille voiced concerns over the liability of operating transit during late evening weekend hours, noting that some people get “ill” after being out until 2 a.m. He noted transporting such people could have a negative effect on the busses.

Commissioner Jerry Zellar disagreed, noting the transit would more than likely prevent negative circumstances.

“If you take one potential drunk driver … home, you may have saved somebody’s life,” he said. “You might have saved that guy from ruining his life, or that girl, and tying up courts and jail beds.”

LaFoille also expressed worries over possibly violating the rules of the Michigan Department of Transportation by offering rides during events – a move he said would interfere with private enterprise.

Reiter noted no private enterprise, such as taxis or charter buses, currently serve the Schoolcraft County area, and that by expanding its hours, transit would not specifically be servicing particular events, it would merely be providing rides during its normal operating hours.

The millage will provide transit with $199,219 during the first calendar year to continue its operations and expand its service. Reiter explained that, since the millage increase includes the base renewal millage, if it fails to pass, transit will have just enough money to last until the next election and ask for just the renewal amount.

“By a very small increase of our renewal, we’ll be able to do all these things,” he said.

The millage language was approved for the November election, with LaFoille casting the sole “no” vote.

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