Paratransit service will continue to Lincoln in 2018.
Bis-Man Transit will give the city another year to find funding for the service, which provides rides to the disabled and elderly.
The Lincoln City Council voted 3-1, with Councilman Tom Volk dissenting, Friday to pay $20,000. This covered the price requested by Transit for service for 2017. As a result, Transit Executive Director Roy Rickert said Transit will provide another year of service with the expectation of receiving another $20,000 at the end of 2018 and a plan for paying for the service’s longevity.
“We’re giving them the benefit of the doubt that they’re going to be able to do what they say they’re going to do,” Rickert said.
Paratransit service to Lincoln was set to end Dec. 31 after a special election ballot measure that would have set aside two mills for the bus was voted down earlier this year. With only 148 voters turning out, citizens voted against the extra property taxes 44 to 104.
Councilwoman Karen Daly said there is a good chance the city will try to bring the initiative back in 2018.
Should the city again be unable to come up with the money, “We’ll cross the bridge when we get there,” Rickert said.
In its vote, council members also suggested they should seek a contract with Bis-Man Transit and the issue will be discussed at the bus service's board meeting on Thursday.
Daly said the money being used to pay for the 2017 Transit services comes from outstanding checks that went uncashed and unvoided, leaving the funds available.
Daly’s own husband is disabled and she is herself suffering from a broken knee.
“What would I have done?” she asked. “There’s a lot of people that things happen to they’re partially disabled and they need to get to work, and we cannot leave these people sitting out in the cold.”
Volk raised concerns over the fact that residents had previously voted down a tax to pay for Transit. He said he also conducted a personal online poll and received similar feedback and suggestions that the council look for alternatives to providing the service, such as a travel stipend.
Resident Shawn Volk said he wants to see transportation continue for the disabled and elderly but echoed Tom Volk’s sentiments that the city should seek to get more for its money.
From July 1 through Sept. 30, paratransit provided 395 rides to and from Lincoln. Rickert said 15 riders accessed the service, with two of those riders, accounting for more than half the rides, using the bus to commute to work.
A number of those riders spoke up at Friday’s meeting. Among them was Peter Hoerner who told the council Transit is his only way to work.
“I can’t afford that, and I can’t afford to lose my job,” he said.
Another woman suffering from cancer and living on her own said she uses Transit for her visits to doctors.
“You take this away from these people you’re taking away their lifestyle,” Brandon Schock said.
Another advocate stood up to ask the city to think of it as an investment to support the area’s aging population.