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Bus rides to cost more

By Staff | Jun 21, 2008

Anyone wanting a guaranteed ride on the county transit system bus is going to pay a steep price for it.

Faribault County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to a proposal to charge a higher rate for a guaranteed pickup time.

Currently a ride on the bus is $2 one way, or $4 round trip. But a person who wants to guarantee getting a ride at a certain time will pay half the cost of operating the bus.

That cost is $45 per hour, so the charge will be $22.50 per hour. Central Services Director Brenda Ripley had prepared a chart as to what the cost would be from town to town.

The commissioners noted that MnDOT actually wants the county to charge the full cost of operating the bus, and not half the rate.

“If a person wants to guarantee a ride, they get to pay a premium,” Commissioner Tom Loveall said.

The move was in response to some angry phone calls that the commissioners have been receiving. A typical complaint, commissioners said, would be two people on the east end of the county wanting a ride to St. Lukes in Blue Earth, but the bus is already hauling swimmers and summer rec kids to activities and is not immediately available.

“Public transportation is for all the public,” Commissioner Bill Groskreutz said. “Not just senior citizens.”

Commissioner Tom Warmka said that while the transit program, Prairie Express, might have been started as a way to enable older citizens to stay in their homes longer, it has become much more.

The commissioners spent time working on a proposal that would put the county transit program out for bids for operation by a private company. The county would still be responsible for buying and maintaining the busses, but a private company would actually operate the system and hire the drivers.

The request for bids calls for a two year contract, with a possible one year additional extension.

Loveall expressed concern that the county would still have control over policies, such as hours of operation. The county will also be responsible for keeping full records and reporting to the state. Martin County currently has their transit service contracted out.

Loveall said that one goal would be future cooperation between neighboring counties on operating an area-wide transit system.

Other business, commissioners:

• Approved six change orders in the construction plans for the new county law enforcement center. Total cost savings from the six changes is $24,797.

• Voted to impose liquidated damages against a contractor for late completion of the Huntley sewer system project.

The total withheld from Gaub, Inc. will be $17,250, at a rate of $750 per day past the contract completion date. The total cost of the project was $126,000, County Auditor John Thompson said.

“A contract is a contract,” Commissioner Butch Erichsrud said.

Commissioner Loveall added that it had been dry last fall and there was no excuse for the late completion. The county had already authorized a two-week extension on the contract earlier.

• Heard a report from Faribault County Fair Board President Daryl Murray on the fair’s budget. He thanked the commissioners for their continued support.

Murray also said the fair had paid off all of their long term debt last year, and had completed a $40,000 roof project on the 4-H building.

• Authorized the purchase of all new county street signs from the Earl F. Anderson company at a cost of $43,898. Townships will reimburse the county for the cost, when the signs are installed.

The bid was the lowest of three received. County Engineer John McDonald said he had estimated the cost would be $40,000. There are 3,520 street signs in the rural area of the county.