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Transit authority planning to profit from taxi services

Saturday, April 8, 2006

The money would provide the local match needed to secure more federal money to expand transit services.

The Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority's decision to acquire a local taxi company doesn't involve the taxicabs themselves.

The authority doesn't want the aging vehicles, authority board chairman Doug Richards said Friday. The authority plans to buy new vehicles.

Transit officials said the purchase of Kelley Transportation Co. will provide them a new source of income.

Cape Girardeau County Commissioner Jay Purcell said the transit authority essentially will buy the customer contracts that Kelley Transportation Co. has for courier and taxi services.

Richards said the authority plans to operate the courier and around-the-clock taxi service to generate income.

Some of that income would provide the local match needed to secure more federal transportation money from MoDOT to expand transit services, he said.

Federal funding from the Missouri Department of Transportation would pay 80 percent of the cost of new vehicles. The transit authority would pay the other 20 percent. Transit officials don't know yet how many vehicles will be needed or how much money the authority will have to spend to get new rolling stock.

Initially, the transit authority may rent office space from Kelley Transportation in Cape Girardeau. It ultimately may build a bus station to serve as a central dispatch point for its shuttle buses and the taxi service, Richards said.

Officials announced the planned purchase last month. But as of Friday, lawyers had yet to finish drawing up the purchase agreement.

Purcell and Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones voiced frustration with the delay, but said they hope to have a signed agreement in the coming week.

Jones promised to disclose the purchase price once the agreement is signed. Commissioners said the transit authority and not the county government is purchasing Kelley Transportation.

But Jones said the county commission may have to co-sign a bank loan to secure the financing.

Purcell and Jones said the county commission hired an appraiser to help the transit authority and Kelley Transportation arrive at a purchase price.

Purcell said the county government paid $4,000 to an independent appraiser, but expects to be reimbursed by the transit authority and Kelley once the transaction has been completed.

The appraisal was a key factor in securing the deal because both sides initially were far apart on a purchase price, he said.

Richards said the transit authority intends to improve operations and will consider establishing a fixed-route bus system as part the transit service.

The transit authority expects to receive the taxi-coupon transit subsidies from the city of Cape Girardeau and the federal government that have been going to Kelley to help pay for the transportation of low-income riders.

The purchase of Kelley Transportation will help the transit authority in its efforts to consolidate transportation services throughout the county, Richards said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123


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