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A Stop Sign Waits Ahead for Bent County Transit

(Lamar, CO) -- Bent County transit will not be merged into a regional transit effort. That was decided on a 7-to-4 vote of county commissioners from southeast Colorado at a SECED, Southeast Colorado Enterprise Development meeting Wednesday.

After Bent County Commissioners voted to discontinue funding the transit which runs routes from Ft. Lyon and Las Animas to La Junta and Lamar, it was amended to discuss funding it for just another month. Wednesday's agenda item to discuss with SECED was to see if the Bent County Transit could transition into a regional transportation line. A one-stop regional transit service had already been in the works with discussion.

Stephanie Gonzales with SECED explained she felt the timing was right to react to the request by Bent County to take over the transit.

"It wasn't our intention to do that, this year, but since the opportunity has presented itself, and that's part of our mission." "We came up with a proposal" "We know that transit is not a money maker, we understand that."

She finished by saying that she's talked to others who've done something similar and was reassured that the ridership will come.

Concerns from the meeting were that even with grants and Medicaid funding in the future, the transit would be competing for rides with other services already available.

There would be challenges to fund the transit on a regional level but Gonzales said she was confident that they could fund it for the first year. After that, she said grants would help them sustain the program.

Bent County Commissioner Jean Sykes asked if logging the Medicaid rides versus the other rides could be difficult to keep straight. Gonzales explained that dispatch would keep all of the information needed to be accountable for the Medicaid funding for the transit.

Otero county economic development director Danelle Berg said she'd had conversations with folks in the know ahead of this meeting. She said she felt it would be almost certain to obtain the funding.

"That concern is a very legitimate concern if the other funding sources aren't available, it's a year long commitment."

Kim MacDonnell from Bent County added that the decision on the funding didn't need to happen right now.

Kiowa county commissioners were concerned about supporting a regional transit because they explained they already have a transit in place. They worried that it could work against what they're doing.

Another big question was, what would be done with the buses if funding wasn't obtained in the first six months and if the regional transit would be required to continue on their dime for the rest of the year.

Bent County is meeting Thursday to talk about what to do with the buses. Commissioner MacDonnell spoke up to mention that the legal opinion came this week from the county attorney. She furthered that attorney Nathan Schultz said they could be transferred to an entity for operation. He stated this could be done through a resolution. Bent County commissioner Jean Sykes said she was not aware they had heard back from the attorney on the issue.

Bent County resident Bill Long was in attendance for the meeting and spoke up to say if they discontinue the transit, it will be hard to start back up in the future. Long said there are benefits for all. "I would encourage you to seriously consider this."

"I have a passion for being regional." SECED Gonzales reiterated during the long talk on the agenda item as she tried to convince the room that it could work at the time.

Many still had concerns for the future funding of a regional transit at this time.

A motion was made to take a vote individually, that vote was 7-to-4 and a no vote.


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