CRESTVIEW — The City Council, citing poor management and lack of representation on the Okaloosa County Transit board, is denying funding for city bus routes.
The council's 2-3 vote Monday evening followed a lengthy debate led by Council President Robyn Helt, who reminded OCT and county officials that allowing city funding depended on having a voice in bus operations.
"You're asking for our money but not allowing us any oversight or say in how it is used," Helt said.
In October 2013, the Board of County Commissioners, which pays half the Crestview bus routes' $96,250 operation cost, demanded the city pay the other half. The council agreed, expecting to use money from the city's share of the increased county gasoline tax.
Commissioners then changed their demand, requesting $13,125 to fund the routes only until Feb. 4. The city council agreed.
The county has failed to return the signed memorandum of understanding establishing the agreement, so the city has not yet paid its share, City Clerk Betsy Roy stated in an agenda brief.
Recently, county officials again changed their minds and decided to fund the two bus routes through the rest of the fiscal year.
No tax estimation
Crestview has not received a state estimation of its share of the increased gas tax, so any funding for bus routes would have to come from dwindling contingency funds.
County Growth Management Director Elliot Kampert said Monday that he received a letter from OCT inviting a Crestview representative to observe board meetings.
Helt reminded Kampert that a condition of the county receiving city funding was city representation on the transit board.
"I was very much a champion for this funding but I did make the stipulation that if we would fund, we would have a voting say on the board," she said. "That was a condition of the funding. I'm hearing that has not been met."
Helt said Crestview residents' tax dollars are "misused because the routes are not what our citizens need, the timing is wrong and the stops are not in the right places. We've been saying this for two years.
"As I sit here today, all these issues are still the same issues. There's not one change to any of it — and now you want a check."
Routes could end next month
City Planner Eric Davis, who would have been Crestview's representative on the transit board, said he and county officials are studying creation of a new, public transportation authority with more municipal representation.
Davis also said they have been revising Crestview bus routes that better meet riders' needs. He pleaded for "nine more months to try to work this out."
The council didn't give it to him.
Councilman Tom Gordon, who has traveled extensively abroad, said he found better service on a for-profit transit system in Mexico and joined Helt and Councilman Shannon Hayes in voting against funding the bus routes under the current management.
Kampert said without city funding, the routes will terminate Feb. 4.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.