Tupelo council backs transit study spending

TUPELO – City leaders voiced support Thursday for a plan to spend $25,000 on a public transit study.
Brad Prewitt, chair of the newly created Public Transportation Committee, pitched the idea to Mayor Jack Reed Jr. and members of the City Council just one day after his group proposed it.
“None of us are experts,” Prewitt said. “Sometimes we need to rely on experts to help us, and this is one of those times.”
The study would take about one month and examine potential ridership, start-up and operating costs, revenue sources, operation styles and equipment needs.
The committee was created in June to help Tupelo establish a public transportation system. Members were appointed earlier this month and held their first meeting last week.
Prewitt noted the quick pace but said it’s necessary to act fast if Tupelo wants to get in line for federal dollars.
“If you’re going to jump on the bus, policy-wise, this is the time to do it,” Prewitt said, explaining that Congress has steadily increased public transit funds the past few years and noting that several Mississippi cities, including Clarksdale, already have received such funds.
Among those supporting the study was Ward 4 Councilwoman Nettie Davis. She offered her full support to the group and its recommendation to hire a consultant.
“We have problems with handicapped people getting to work, and there are people who don’t own their own vehicles,” she said. “If Clarksdale and places like that can have a transit system, certainly we can.”
Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington also called public transportation a high priority.
Reed said he will ask the council for the $25,000 at the next meeting. The council will have two weeks to study the request before voting on it in mid-September.
The amount the city spends on the report could decrease if Prewitt can obtain outside grants. He said he is pursuing at least one source and hopes to have a commitment soon.
If everything goes according to plan, Prewitt said, Tupelo could have a bus system running by late 2010.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com. Also read her blog, The Government Grind, at NEMS360.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal