Monday, December 03, 2001

Fairfield weighs giving $85K to bus system

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Fairfield City Council might vote at its 7 p.m. meeting tonight whether to pledge $85,000 to the struggling Butler County Regional Transit Authority.

        The bus system, used daily by about 1,000 riders, is trying to avoid closing next year because of losses in state and federal funding. The transit system offers fixed bus routes in Hamilton, Middletown, Fairfield and Oxford and provides park- and-ride sites.

        It also has a contract with the county's Department of Job and Family Services to provide transportation to people moving from welfare to work.

        Hamilton City Council approved $85,000 last month to help keep the bus system going. That will give the transit system an extra 1 1/2 months to plan, and it will allow county officials more time to determine if they can provide long-term funding.

        Fairfield, Oxford and Middletown are considering giv ing short-term money to the Transit Authority.

        The Butler County commissioners recently rejected the Transit Authority's request for $250,000 in short-term funding. But the commissioners have agreed to consider allocating to the Transit Authority $1.1 million in revenue from a planned county sales tax increase.

        Fairfield City Councilman Sterling Uhler likely will present a proposal at tonight's meeting that would authorize City Manager Ar thur E. Pizzano to pledge $85,000 to the BCRTA.

        “We need to do this to help it stay alive,” Mr. Uhler told council members. “Without it, they would likely go bankrupt by the end of the year.”

        Amy Terango, BCRTA executive director, is expected to outline a long-term plan for the bus system.

        Two Fairfield councilmen, however, said they were troubled by the deal. Councilman Mark Scharringhausen worried funding the bus system would be a “tempo rary Band-Aid.”

        “I am willing to do it for four months, but I do not want to do it on a regular basis,” he said. “I want to know what their game plan is. Are they going back to the ballot? Will they forgo the ballot? Because I am not going to sign up for a series of temporary renewals.”

        Councilman Ron D'Epifanio also said he had problems with giving money to a program.

        Reporter Steve Kemme contributed to this report.


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