At their regular meeting Jan. 3, Faribault County Commissioners unanimously approved the Prairie Express budget, but had some reservations about the new numbers.
Last year, total operating costs for the transit service were capped at $168,000. Faribault County had to pay 15 percent of that total plus any amount spent over the cap.
In 2012, the state has reduced the cap, dropping operating costs to $156,200. If the transit system goes over budget, Faribault County will be shouldered with the responsibility of paying any additional costs.
“At the moment, we are scheduled to pay $23,430 to help fund the Prairie Express,” County Auditor and Treasurer John Thompson says. “That number will likely be around $30,000 after taking into account fixed costs, repairs, fuel expense and drivers.”
The cap reduction comes after the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) rated Faribault County’s public transit system as underperforming based on the cost to the county per number of rides given.
“We are going to have to continue to watch this,” Commissioner Tom Warmka says about possible increased funding to public transportation. “At some number we will not be able to do it anymore.”
Commissioner Bill Groskreutz Jr. says one of the detriments to the service is its inability to offer chartered rides. If a wedding or a prom party wants to reserve the bus, they are not allowed to do so because of limiting equal access. “That has caused us to lose opportunities,” Groskreutz says.
“I don’t know where the future leads,” Commissioner Tom Loveall says. “We are not going to pull a rabbit out of a hat to make transit better.”
The Prairie Express Bus service is offered to all members of the public from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The cost of a one way ride is $3.
In other items the board:
•Appointed Commissioner John Roper to the position of board chairman and Commissioner Greg Young to vice-chairman. Both will be filling those positions for the first time.
•Approved regular board meetings to occur on the first and third Tuesdays of every month. Meetings will begin at 9 a.m.
•Approved County Engineer John McDonald’s proposal to apply for funding from the Local Road Improvement Program. If awarded, money will help fund the CSAH 16 rehabilitation project. Faribault County will apply for $500,000.
• Approved the final payment of $161,629.11 for work done on CSAH 16 from Goemann’s corner to the Golden Bubble. Construction crews were able to do $3 million worth of work during the fall.
• Set the same rate for gopher bounties in 2012. Pocket gophers will be worth $2 and striped and grey gophers will produce a bounty of $.50.
• Named the Faribault County Register official newspaper of the county. No other bids were submitted.