Mini Bus seeks funding increase

By Xiomara Levsen, The JOURNAL


At the supervisors meeting this week, Washington County Mini Bus asked for an increase from the county for next fiscal year.

Transportation director Cris Gaughan first told the supervisors what the operating costs were and how many rides they provide for the public.

Currently, they receive $50,000 annually from the county, Gaughan said. Their operating budget for this fiscal year was $773,000.

?Last year, the mini bus provided 67,835 rides and traveled over 300,000 miles,? Gaughan said. ?Seventy-one percent of our rides originate in Washington. Twenty-one percent of those are rural.?

There are 225 rides scheduled daily and more than 78 call-ins for a ride, she added. Some days they receive as many as 150 call-in requests for rides.

They are open to the public and assist people with getting to their medical appointments. They are the only county in their region that are demand response.

?There are 17 buses in our fleet,? Gaughan said. ?There are 11-13 buses on the road daily.?

There is a new branding name for the region. ECI Transit changed its name to Corridor Rides, which is why you may have seen some of the buses already branded with the new name, she said.

There are 25 staff members at Washington County Mini Bus. Three are fulltime and 22 parttime, Gaughan said.

She asked the supervisors for a $10,000 increase in funding or $60,000 for the next fiscal year.

?We are looking at doing some renovations this year,? Gaughan said. ?We would like to completely remodel the offices and add a bathroom. We desperately need more than one restroom in there and then enlarge the service bay, so that would allow us to do more bus work in house I guess.?

Board chairman Abe Miller asked Gaughan if by increasing the size of the service bay if it would allow them to wash the buses there.

?Yes, it?s very cramped there now,? Gaughan replied. ?We can?t work on our lifts in the service bay that we have now because our service bay is not wide enough and the buses are too wide ? we can?t get the lifts down.?

The mechanic has to work on the buses outside or where they are stored in an area that isn?t heated, she added.

Gaughan told the supervisors it has been more than 20 years since any changes were made to the offices.

?What I would like to see is that they?re soundproofed,? Gaughan said. ?It?s a very busy place and very hard to stay focused when you can hear what the dispatch is doing two rooms away, so those are some of the things we?re looking at and looking forward to doing.?

Supervisor Bob Yoder asked Gaughan to talk a little bit more about how Washington County has the highest usage rate in the region.

She said that is correct. Most of the trips start in Washington and then go out to other communities in the county and even to Iowa City. They take people back and forth to school and to work.

?They just don?t have their own transportation,? Gaughan added.

Board member Richard Young asked Gaughan about the rates.

?Are they changing or are you holding them still because you are asking us to increase [funding by] $10,000?? Young said.

?We have not looked to increase our rates, as the Mini Bus board has not looked to increase those rates at this time,? Gaughan said.

?How long have the rates been where they?re at?? supervisor Stan Stoops asked.

?Since 2008 [or] 2010,? Gaughan said.

The fee in town for a ride is $2.50, which has been quite a while, she added.

Young said eventually Mini Bus will have to increase its rates to cover the increase of costs for fuel, insurance, etc. He added that Mini Bus provides a great service to the community for $2.50 around town, but it costs Mini Bus money each time they go to Iowa City or another community in Washington County.

Gaughan agreed with Young, but told him there are different fees for a ride to another community, such as Wellman or Iowa City.

?You know, I was looking at that, too,? supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said. ?With 67,000 rides you can even increase each trip by a quarter ? that?s 25 cents ? that would raise you $15,000, because I know we don?t have anything to do with the rates or whatever, but we do have a couple of guys who may have some input. Maybe looking at that rate structure would be something to do also. I?m only making a suggestion from the sideline.?

Supervisor Bob Yoder said if the rates did increase by 25 or 50 cents, he didn?t think it would make too much of an impact on the riders.

?Some of the elderly use it a lot,? Miller replied.

There was no more discussion about the funding increase request.