November 6, 2013 9:39:57 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Thirty days means 30 days.
By a 3-2 vote, the Columbus City Council approved a request from Lawrence Transit System for a 30-day extension to begin bus service to the city. The vote came during Tuesday's council meeting. With the vote, the council stipulated that if the buses aren't rolling by Dec. 6, the city's contract with LTS is null and void.
Councilmen Gene Taylor, Charlie Box and Marty Turner opted to give the Indiana-based transportation company more time. Kabir Karriem and Bill Gavin voted in dissent.
Gavin, who had been a proponent of LTS bringing its services to Columbus since the council granted the company the bus contract in September 2012, said the council has provided more than ample time with no results.
"I think by their actions of how they've dealt with this procedure of coming to the city and implementing these services gives me an indication of how they're actually going to run the bus service," Gavin said. "If they can't get their house in order in a year and a half, which is what we've been dealing with to even get the buses here, I think you're going to end up with routes not being run and unfulfilled dreams and requests by citizens. I think it's going to be a big problem that we as councilmen and you (Robert Smith) as the mayor are going to hear from."
Smith said no matter what the outcome, he expects to hear feedback from supporters and opponents of the move to bring in the bus service.
"There's going to be some in favor of the extension and some against," Smith told Gavin. "I guess that's why you get paid the big bucks."
Box, who had voted in support of the service when it came to the council last year even though he questioned the need of the service, said the company's commitment was enough for him to grant the extension.
"I see this as a private company that's coming here to bring business to Columbus," Box said. "I understand we've had some problems. Some of those I don't think are altogether Lawrence Transit Service's fault. They didn't know about some of the regulations about putting the shelters on the highway or on the side of the road ... They had some trouble getting their (Department of Transportation) permit, which they weren't aware they had to do."
Using in-kind services from the city, the company has placed signs where the bus stops would be, but no shelters have been erected, nor have any buses themselves been brought to the city.
Dorothy Dowdell, liaison between LTS' main offices in Indiana and community leaders in Columbus and Columbus services coordinator, said in August that upon starting, the service would create 20 jobs and the number could grow to 75.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.