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SPRINGDALE -- Ozark Regional Transit carried nearly 80,000 riders in Springdale during 2017, and the City Council took a step Tuesday night aimed at ensuring the service continues into 2018.

The council voted 5-0 to pay the total of its yearly $265,000 contract with the transit company in two payments a year instead of quarterly. Council members Jeff Watson, Mike Overton and Colby Fulfer all missed the meeting due to illness, Mayor Doug Sprouse reported.

Ozark transit relies on federal government money, explained Wyman Morgan, the city's director of finance and administration. But the government has delayed adopting a budget, so the money to the transit system is delayed. "And it has a cash flow problem because the federal funds did not arrive on time," Morgan said.

The city now will pay the contract with Ozark transit in installments to be paid before Jan. 30 and before July 31. The transit system asked the city to make payment in one sum, Morgan said. The bi-yearly payments work for the city because transit system money comes out of the street fund, which is saved until the summer construction season, Morgan said.

The city's 2018 budget was approved by City Council members Nov. 20, with the contract amount for services with Ozark Regional Transit the same as 2017. Yet, the transit system faces a $338,000 shortfall in its 2018 budget.

Jeff Hatley, public information officer for Ozark Regional Transit, said Tuesday the transit system's executive director, Joel Gardener, is planning meetings with officials of the individual cities in Northwest Arkansas to talk about the system's finances. Hatley reported a Jan. 16 meeting is planned with Springdale's council.

"The cities will have to put up the money to make up for shortfall or routes or hours will have to be cut," Hatley said.

Currently, Ozark Regional Transit runs four routes in Springdale, and the city pays one-quarter of the cost for another route from Fayetteville to Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, with the cost shared between the four cities the route serves. The transit system's demand-response service served 7,500 in Springdale who requested specific trips.

But ridership is down, advertising income is down and maintenance costs for the system's mostly borrowed buses are up, all results of the devastating fire that destroyed most Ozark Regional Transit's fleet in January 2017.

NW News on 01/10/2018

Print Headline: City to pay for transit service bi-yearly

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