The paratransit bus service got some fuel to move as the Lincoln City Council unanimously voted to enter an agreement for the 2018 program.
As part of a proposed agreement to continue paratransit services to Lincoln, the Bis-Man Transit Board asked Lincoln city officials to pay for a portion of services up front.
The council voted 3-0 Thursday to accept the terms of the agreement. Tom Volk, the lone councilman to previously voice opposition to the transit payment, was not present at Thursday’s meeting.
Under the agreement, the city will pay $10,000 by the end of the month and another $10,000 by the end of July. The city also must come up with a plan to fund paratransit into the future.
“These people need a ride,” councilman Erv Fischer said, though he acknowledged his vote may be unpopular.
A special election ballot item that would have set aside two mills for the bus was voted down in 2017. With only 148 voters turning out, citizens voted against the extra property taxes 44 to 104.
Councilwoman Karen Daly said the initiative will likely be put back on the June ballot this year in hopes of drawing more voters. The two-mill increase would result in about $20 or $25 more in taxes per year for most residents, she said.
Volk had said previously he had wanted to explore other options for providing paratransit service rather than going through Bis-Man Transit. He also said he thinks it's a bad idea to pay for the services prior to receiving them.
The Lincoln City Council voted on Dec. 15 to pay $20,000 owed to Transit for services rendered in 2017 in order to keep the bus service from being discontinued at the end of the year. The money came from an uncashed water check to the city of Bismarck that had been a duplicate and that had remained in Lincoln’s account.
Lincoln City Auditor Shawn Surface said the council could use the $8,317 remaining from that unreconciled water check toward its first payment. There may be a number of other small unreconciled checks available as well, though the total still needs to be confirmed.
The council will have to come up with the remaining payment. It was mentioned in the auditor’s report that the city was expected to have a $446,000 budget surplus that may be able to be tapped.
Councilman Jon Aman also talked about budgeting for paratransit as a backup plan rather than banking on the public voting in any new taxes.
“We’d be better off having that extra cash than sitting here trying to figure out ... how we're going to pull this off,” he said.