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County OKs bus agreement

By Staff | Dec 7, 2014

Central Services director Dawn Fellows was first to appear before the Faribault County Board of Commissioners at last Tuesday’s board meeting to introduce a formal vote on whether to establish a joint powers authority (JPA) with Martin County.

During the joint powers work session on Nov. 19, the commissioners from both Faribault and Martin counties informally agreed to establish a JPA that would combine the two county transit services.

However, it was not until last Tuesday that each board had a chance to review a newly drafted resolution.

The document called for the commissioners to adopt the three primary features that made up the resolution: agree to?consolidate the transit systems; consent to the hire of an interim transit director; and submit a request for a Consolidation Transition Grant.

The grant, funded by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, will cover 85 percent of costs related to merging the two systems meaning that MnDOT will serve as the primary financier for this project.

MnDOT wants to coordinate the two services, much like the Prairieland and Buffalo Ridge Transit Systems in southwestern Minnesota, as a cost effective way to maximize travel potential for rural passengers.

However, Commissioner Tom Warmka was still a bit apprehensive of MnDOT’s efforts to centralize and expand the county transit services.

Faribault County Transit is facing a dwindling pool of passengers, he said, and unless the prevailing issues are addressed, the joint powers board “will have one less vote.”

Commissioner Bill Groskreutz echoed Commissioner Warmka’s claim, saying that “just because the transit service is bigger,” that does not mean that there has been any improvement.

The opinions set forth by commissioners Warmka and Groskreutz echoed a comment made by Commissioner Greg Young during the Nov. 19 work session.

“We want to have the best service out there, that’s our goal,”?said Young. “Let’s not lose sight of that.”

The three board members are concerned that perhaps this coalition is focused too much on generating revenue rather than providing excellent service to the citizens of Faribault and Martin counties.

In other business, Fellows announced that I?&?S?Group will begin the assessment on the Faribault County Courthouse and the attached annex building this week.

The assessment, costing $15,000, will provide an estimate that reflects the cost of safety and security updates for the buildings as well as an upcoming reconstruction of the Human Services office.

“We hope that all of the departments can be involved with this,”?Fellows said. “We want to be very transparent throughout the process.”

In conclusion, Fellows reported that Central Services has decided to add the LegalShield/Identity Theft Protection program as an option for county employees to add to their insurance plans in 2015.

“We did have quite a bit of interest for the LegalShield/Identity Theft program, so we will go ahead with implementing that plan,” Fellows said.