Tupelo leans toward transit

TUPELO – In the most positive sign yet for public transit supporters, all City Council members said Wednesday they approve further study of a system.
Most of them also wholeheartedly endorsed a proposed $75,000 allocation in next fiscal year’s budget for transit-related expenses, whatever they might be.
It’s a departure from previous council discussions where members were split over the city’s role in subsidizing transportation.
On Wednesday, the final day of FY11 budget talks, city leaders agreed to pursue some type of system. And they hoped the $75,000 would fund it – if not entirely, than at least in part.
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said the dollar amount represented the approximate cost of an earlier public transit proposal. Late last year, Booneville-based Northeast Mississippi Community Services agreed to run two buses through the city for $68,000 a year.
Council members had rejected that plan.
Reed said the allocation doesn’t automatically mean the city will reconsider that exact proposal, but it provides a similar figure for further discussions.
The council’s two most ardent public transit supporters, Nettie Davis of Ward 4 and Willie Jennings of Ward 7, argued the amount fell short of expectations.
But Mike Bryan of Ward 6 said he’d rather the city allocate nothing until it has a plan in hand.
“I have a heart for people, and I know there is a small need and a group there that needs public transit,” Bryan said. “But we don’t have a plan. Why put a line item in and plug in money there?”
Council members are expected to approve the final budget – including the $75,000 for transit – on Tuesday. They also praised the Public Transportation Committee, which has spearheaded the effort, and said they want to keep working with the group until a workable plan is found.
Finally, said some, other community stakeholders need to come to the table.
Said Ward 3 Councilman Jim Newell: “I do believe we need to develop some partnerships and relationships with private industry and come up with some solution.”

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal