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Commissioners won’t vote again on Red Rabbit funds

POSTED: April 25, 2013 1:16 a.m.

Hall County commissioners said Wednesday night they will not take a second vote to accept federal money to continue operating the Red Rabbit fixed-route bus service.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners declined $400,000 in grant funds on April 10. Commissioner Scott Gibbs said he was almost 100 percent sure that the county was also rejecting previously approved funding for new buses for the service. The board has a public meeting at 6 p.m. today, and the grant wasn’t on the agenda released Wednesday evening.

“There’s nothing for us to vote on,” board Chairman Richard Mecum said.

Commissioners discussed a possible agreement with the city of Gainesville at their Monday work session that may have included the county accepting the funding and having an intergovernmental agreement with the city where Gainesville would accept all liability.

The county decided not to take another vote after it learned in conversations with the Georgia Department of Transportation that Gainesville could apply for the same funding Hall County was offered, said Gibbs and Mecum. GDOT is giving the city time to make an application, Mecum said.

“The county commission has made a decision two weeks ago pertaining to this matter and that decision stands,” County Administrator Randy Knighton said.

Gainesville City Manager Kip Padgett said he was meeting on Friday with Knighton to discuss the Gainesville-Hall Community Service Center, which operates the Red Rabbit service, but he said he didn’t think there was much more about the issue to talk about with the county.

Padgett said the city hasn’t talked to GDOT, but it intends to find out if it can make an application for those funds.

“I think that discussion is still ongoing,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Community Service Center.

Red Rabbit service will stop operating after July 1 unless the city takes over its equipment, operations and financial liability and pays for it.

Melody Marlowe, Gainesville Administrative Services director, and Moss are crunching numbers on what it might cost the city to operate alone.

“I think everybody would prefer that the city go ahead and get the grant themselves,” Mecum said, referring to his sense of the commissioners’ feelings.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said the city wants and needs a transportation system.

“My interpretation of that is that they will do everything they can to retain those services for, at a minimum, their constituents,” Moss said.

Hall Transit Services, which includes Red Rabbit and the Dial-A-Ride service, is part of the Community Service Center and funded by both Hall County and Gainesville.

The Federal Transit Administration pays 50 percent of Red Rabbit operating costs, and the city and county split the other half 50-50.

Red Rabbit has seven fixed bus routes and more than 200 bus stops, mostly in Gainesville, with some stops farther out, including down Atlanta Highway to the University of North Georgia-Gainesville campus in Oakwood.

Dial-A-Ride is a curbside service that requires advance reservations.


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