Council restores transit funds

The Jefferson City Council has approved a resolution restoring $55,000 to the city’s transit division and avoiding a three-hour midday break in service.

The council voted 9-1 to approve the resolution offered by 3rd Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner. Third Ward Councilman Bryan Pope cast the sole opposing vote, but said he was not opposed to restoring the transit funds themselves.

The resolution directs City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus to issue a request for proposals for an outside consultant to assist in studying the transit system. The resolution states “it is the intent of the council to enter into an in depth study of the needs and resources of (the) transportation system including involving input from all of the stake-holders in the community.”

Pope said he believed the transit funds needed to be restored but is opposed to bringing in an outside consultant for the process of studying the transit system.

“I did not think we needed to hire another expert … we have the expertise,” Pope said. “We don’t have the money to hire all these out of town experts.”

Nickolaus said he likely would proceed by putting together some type of committee and provide a general outline of what the RFP should look like. That RFP, he said, would be taken to the Public Works and Planning Committee for approval.

The resolution authorizes Nickolaus to use funds from vacancy savings, or anywhere he can find the needed funds, to make up the $55,000.

As part of the budget cuts approved last month, the city began a Separation Incentive Plan to reduce positions based on early retirement/resignation, instead of mandatory furloughs or layoffs. The city estimated it would need six employees to leave through the program to reach the $150,000 savings projected in the approved budget cuts.

As of late March, seven employees had opted to take part in the program. City employees had to notify officials by Monday if they were going to take part.

Three citizens spoke in support of the council’s decision to restore the transit funds, including one who provided an outline of a proposed public transit advisory commission for the city.

Wayne Lee said the city needs to have an advisory commission and proposed it be made up of the transit director, one or two council members, JeffTran and Handi Wheels riders, as well as representatives from the medical, faith, social services, senior services and business communities. Lee also recommended having a disability advocate sit on any such commission.

“I appreciate what you’re doing tonight very much,” Lee said.

Heidi Lucas, chair of the Citizens for JeffTran group, said the group supports the creation of a citizen board or commission for transit and would be happy to assist in the process.

“We first want to thank you for seeing the importance of a robust transportation system,” Lucas said.

Nickolaus said Mayor Eric Struemph wants the RFP process to be expedited, so he hopes to have one ready in about a month. There is no timeline for any committee or commission being formed, he said.

The council also voted down a bill that would have nearly eliminated pay for council members and the mayor. The bill, which would have reduced the salary of council members and the mayor to $1 per year, was voted down 9-1, with Pope, who sponsored the bill, casting the only affirmative vote.

Currently, City Council members receive $450 per month and the mayor receives $900 per month. According to the city charter, “the council shall determine the annual compensation of councilmen by ordinance, but the salary of a councilman shall not be increased or diminished during his term.”

The City Council also swore in three new members Monday night.

After a meeting of the current council ended, new 1st Ward Councilman James Branch, who replaces Bob Weber, 3rd Ward Councilman Ken Hussey, who replaces Pope, and 4th Ward Councilman Carlos Graham, who replaces Bill Luebbert, took their seats and took part in their first meeting of the City Council.

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