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Allen Howell, Lemhi County Economic Development Association (LCEDA) Board of Directors Chairman, presented an update to the Salmon City Council February 5 on the status of local bus service transportation and asked the council to decide if the city is willing to support LCEDA’s efforts to take over administration and operation of local transportation services. The decision of whether or not to offer a letter of support will be made at the February 19 City Council meeting.

Howell explained the complexities surrounding services provided by the Targhee Regional Public Transportation Authority (TRPTA), the Medicare/Medicaid financial dynamics involved and the shortcomings of the service being currently provided here as well as in other areas serviced by TRPTA.

He said LCEDA, in conjunction with the county and Lemhi Ride, is in the process of applying for an Idaho Transportation Department $170,000 grant which if awarded would go into effect this October 1st. It would mean Lemhi Ride could become eligible for supplying Medicaid/Medicare transportation services which is one of TRPTA’s most lucrative revenue sources and one the company does not want to lose. For that reason Howell said TRPTA is pushing back against the idea of LCEDA taking over management of local transportation. Every time a Medicare or Medicaid insured person is transported to a doctor’s appointment the service providing the transportation is paid by the insurer. Howell said as an example, reimbursement for a doctor’s appointment trip to and from Idaho Falls can be up to $700. The Medicare/Medicaid revenues being generated locally are being used by TRPTA for services outside this area.

Thoughts of filling local transportation needs have been talked about and worked on for years and Lemhi Ride is the result. Now, LCEDA is being asked if it is ready to take over local transportation management on April 1st if TRPTA follows through on its threat to discontinue public transportation services in this area.

The request and the grant deadline shifted everything into high gear and a public meeting was held January 31 which was attended by city and county officials. Howell said there still are several unknowns such as where the bus fleet will be housed, who will be in charge of maintenance and how insurance costs will be shared. Unknowns also prevent absolute budget projections such as whether or not LCEDA will actually be the recipient of the $57,000 in Medicaid Demand now being received by TRPTA.

One thing known for sure is that local people working on this project are receiving eager support from both the state and the federal government agencies involved. Howell said there are now three providers locally but the state would prefer Medicaid/Medicare transportation services be supplied by one provider. He said Idaho Transportation Department District Six Mobility Manager Jeff Osgood has been remarkably helpful and that officials have been told once all steps are in order and if everything goes as planned, including award of the grant, there would be no cost to local government. Howell on the other hand has worked a contingency fund into an estimated Profit and Loss Summary, just in case. He said in his experience as a business man, “Nothing costs nothing.” At some point the city may be asked to participate financially however for now, a letter of support for the plan is all that is being asked.

The reason LCEDA is involved is the grant monies must be administered by a public sponsored 501 C3 agency. Paperwork on the grant submission has to be completed by February 24.

If all of this does not happen, Lemhi Ride will continue to service local transportation services three days a week. The service area extends to Shoup Bridge on Highway 93 South, five or six miles out on Highway 28 and north on 93 to the Big Flat area.

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