July 25, 2013 10:02:36 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
The City of Columbus has drawn a line in the sand with Lawrence Transit System: The company must either begin providing bus services to the city by Aug. 9 or there will likely be no bus service at all.
Councilmen approved a one-year lease agreement with the Indiana-based public bus service provider Tuesday that allows the company to lease city property to store its buses for $7,200. The city will pay for the cost of furnishing and installing bus stop signs with the company name at locations where the shuttle service will pick up riders. The company has to reimburse the city for those costs if it fails to begin operations by the Aug. 9 deadline.
City attorney Jeff Turnage said the city initially suggested a three-year lease with the bus service provider, but officials from Lawrence preferred a one-year deal.
Columbus Mayor Robert Smith, councilman Gene Taylor, federal programs director Travis Jones and Turnage traveled to Indiana in April on a fact-finding mission to see how the service operated at its home base and to gather opinions from people in the area who were familiar with the service.
Since then, no information has been made public regarding where bus stops might be located, how many routes there will be or its schedules.
Smith did not return a call from The Dispatch Wednesday seeking comment on those specifics.
Officials with Lawrence Transit have never returned calls to The Dispatch. The company's website contains a section for services in Columbus but does not list a local contact number for anyone seeking more information. The page contains two paragraphs, one of which states, "LTS is excited to be coming to Columbus, MS." The second paragraph informs people interested in employment with the company to fill out an application form attached to the page.
Previous Dispatch reports name Cliff Redden as the owner of Lawrence Transit. The lease agreement contract was signed by Mike Hardy, who states his position as company president.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.