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The Salmon City Council has voted five to one to support the Lemhi County Economic Development Association (LCEDA) in its grant application for funding to expand Lemhi Ride Transportation services when the Targhee Regional Public Transportation Authority (TRPTA) leaves this area.

The vote came after a forty five minute question and answer period during the council’s February 19 meeting. In attendance for the discussion were LCEDA Board Chairman Allen Howell and Jeff Osgood with the Community Transportation Association of Idaho (CTAI).

At the outset council consensus was in opposition to contributing any funding towards LCEDA’s plans to replace TRPTA transportation services with local Lemhi Ride buses. That being said, the council was willing to offer a letter of support towards LCEDA’s grant application and there was no question of the need for some form of local transportation.

Howell said he was concerned over the city’s reluctance, “…to come to the well” with financial help. He said it is not even known if financial help will be needed but a contingency for that purpose should be in place. He pointed out that the Lemhi Ride service area will encompass Salmon City and approximately five miles beyond so 80 percent of the services would be solely for citizens of Salmon. He said county residents pay taxes too and that 75 percent of the county budget is spent within the confines of the city and its impact area.

Howell anticipates that a contingency fund of $30,000, shared equally with the county, would cover the time it will take to establish a cash flow during the transition period between TRPTA and Lemhi Ride. He said once the time lag for grant monies catches up the city’s $15,000 contribution could be returned. The transition period to which he referred is a year away when TRPTA’s current contract ends on March 31, 2015. That time frame encompasses the next city budget process. The $15,000 would stay with the city until needed. If they are required, the funds would be requested on a billing basis with bills submitted to the City Council for approval.

Osgood told the council it is much more difficult to transfer services from one entity to another than it is to start a new transportation service. He said there are logistical challenges for the first month or so as funding flows catch up. Osgood explained the CTAI helps facilitate distribution of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds for public transit in rural areas and that FTA pays on a monthly reimbursement basis. He said that once Medicaid payments along with other funds make the switch to the new service there will be a cash flow. He also said transition of grants is tricky since grants are allocated a year in advance but there is a year to plan for it. A grant is being written for funds to hire a professional technical consultant to assist with initial service planning and operational aspects.

Osgood said TRPTA records show a total of 6,200 local riders last year. Four years ago there were 13,000 riders. He said the difference is not in the need for service but in the service being provided.

Baker asked Howell about TRPTA’s present building and he said it is not in a good location and therefore there is no interest in buying it. Osgood added that city property used for Lemhi Ride storage could be offered as an in-kind match. Councilman Russ Chinski asked if there was any chance of TRPTA trying to fix current problems and Osgood said they have made a commitment to leave the area as of April 1, 2015.

Councilman Jim Bockelman made a motion that the city support LCEDA in going forward with the grant process to fund Lemhi Ride services as proposed in the association’s letter and budget dated February 5. The motion also called for the city to commit $15,000 in seed money for the first year of operation with the expectation it be repaid. Baker added the money be committed contingent on receipt of an official Memorandum of Understanding between LCEDA and the city.

The motion passed on a roll call vote with Rob Jackson casting the only ‘no’ vote. A letter of intent and support from the city was to be written and submitted in time for the February 24 grant application deadline.

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