Transit board to begin van service Jan. 1

Friday, November 16, 2001

JACKSON, Mo. -- The Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority plans to steer the operations of a tax-funded van service when the new year rolls around.

The authority is taking over the operation of the private, not-for-profit Cape County Transit Inc. on Jan. 1. A written agreement on the merger is expected to be signed next week, ending months of negotiations.

"It's been a long process, but it will all be worth it," said Doug Richards, who chairs the transit authority.

Richards told the Cape Girardeau County Commission on Thursday that the authority plans to expand and upgrade van services.

At Richards' urging, the commission voted to lend $24,000 in county tax money to help get the revamped van service rolling.

"We don't have the operational money to buy what we need," he said in explaining the need for the financial help.

The loan will be retired as the transit service receives reimbursement from a grant through the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Richards said the money will be used to help pay for office equipment and larger rental quarters in Jackson.

Need for more space

The current Cape County Transit office is too small, Richards said, adding that the transit authority will initially operate out of the existing rental space in Jackson. The authority hopes to move the operation to a larger quarters in the city by March, at the latest.

Plans also call for hiring added staff and purchasing new vans in the coming year. Richards said expansion ultimately will mean a bigger budget. The existing transit service operates on a $218,000 budget, funded largely with government grants and contracts.

Gerald Jones, Cape Girardeau County presiding commissioner, said the loan makes sense and is legal.

"It's not like we are loaning money to a private firm," he said.

The commission appointed the five-member authority last year to improve public transportation services in the county.

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