March 18, 2013 9:52:33 AM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
The proposed city bus service will once again appear before the Columbus City Council Tuesday night.
Dorothy Dowdell of Lawrence Public Transit is scheduled to address the council during the citizens input portion of the council meeting to update mayor Robert Smith and the councilmen on the status of the bus line.
Based out of Lawrence, Ind., the company began talks of a public bus line in Columbus in September 2012. New to the industry, Lawrence Public Transit began running its first municipal transit system in Lawrence, Ind., in May 2012.
When Dowdell first approached the council with the idea of implementing a public bus route, she assured the mayor and council it would not cost the city anything. Several months later, Dowdell asked the council to provide some in-kind services such as bus stops and signage for the route, as well as help Lawrence Transit apply for grant money. Initially slated to arrive in Columbus after the first of the year, buses have yet to arrive in the Friendly City.
Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box said to his understanding, the company ran into some logistical issues.
In September, transit offcials said they were in talks with Waters Truck and Tractor about the possibility of using its facilities to store the buses.Apparently, no agreement was reached, however.
"I know they've had trouble trying to decide where they're going to park the buses," Box said.
Box said that Dowdell has been in talks with city attorney Jeff Turnage to perhaps store the buses at the city barn.
Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem said he was not aware of the possibility of storing the buses at the city barn but said he planned on looking into the issue today.
"I really don't know what the status is of the bus line," Karriem said. "I'm looking into this as we speak."
Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin said that he spoke with representatives from Lawrence Transit and the city's director of federal programs, Travis Jones, in October about possible routes throughout the city.
Gavin said that he, Jones and Dowdell discussed running the bus line up Highway 45, across Bluecutt Road and to the hospital.
Gavin, who teaches at East Mississippi Community College, also said that although the Farmer's Market is not in his ward, he recommended to Dowdell that the bus line pick up students at the Farmer's market and take them to the EMCC campus in Mayhew.
"With gas at three dollars and a half, that was a good alternative to students because we are somewhat of a commuter campus. That would save them some money," Gavin said.
Although the status of the bus line is unclear, Box said Tuesday night's council meeting should shed some light on its progress. Box said despite the delays, he is optimistic about the service.
"I think it's a good thing. It's not going to cost the city any money any way it goes," Box said.
"It's an independent business. It would be just like anybody else who wanted to come and do business in Columbus, we would support them. I think it's going to be a good thing if they can work out the details."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.