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Lemhi County Economic Development Association (LCEDA) Chairman Alan Howell spoke to the Salmon City Council October 15 and brought the councilmen up to date on a scheduled transfer of local bus service from Targhee Regional Public Transportation Authority (TRPTA) to the locally operated Lemhi Ride.

A Lemhi Ride Transportation Committee has been formed to help oversee the transition details and research what other communities have done to provide transportation services.

Howell told the council the committee has taken a road trip to Hamilton, Montana to see that cityís system which has an annual ridership of about 5,000 customers. He said in Hamilton they make use of wheelchair accessible mini-vans which do a good job of cutting gasoline expenses. Smaller vans are something the local operation will consider in the future. The committee then traveled to Pend Orielle country in northern Idaho where a transportation system was built from the ground up. This yearís ridership numbers may exceed 150,000 passengers. That operation is totally funded by grants and no rider fees are charged.

Local Lemhi Ride Committee members are City Councilman Fred Waidely, County Commissioner John Jakovac, District Six Mobility Manager Jeff Osgood of the Community Transportation Association of Idaho, Elaine Fitzhugh, Jessie Merritt and LCEDA Executive Director Tammy Stringham. Howell chairs the committee.

Howell said that TRPTA has apparently been running the service strictly for Medicaid and Medicare residents. Lemhi Ride intends to expand transportation services as much as possible. The actual transfer date has been set for March 30, 2015. A special Technical Assistance staff from Washington D.C. is due to arrive here sometime this month to lend expertise to the organizational aspects of the transfer. The staff is being funded by a national grant. LCEDA was the recipient of one of only four such grants awarded nationwide.

Howell said that on October 2nd he and Stringham met in Idaho Falls with TRPTA managers. Howell described the meeting as progressive and positive. Disposition of the local building purchased by the company is of primary concern. Howell explained that because it is technically property belonging to Bonneville County, if it is sold it will have to go through auction criteria. The Lemhi County Assessorís office has valued the building at $48,500. He said there has been some local interest in the building and that LCEDA is proceeding cautiously towards considering a lease purchase arrangement as long as that would not be viewed as being in competition with any local businesses. He said all things concerning the building are still in the negotiation phase.

Lemhi Ride will be receiving three, five-year-old TRPTA busses. Howell said they are serviceable and that the vehicle titles can be used as a match in the grant processes which will be helping to fund the local program. In the future, Lemhi Ride will also be able to replace the older buses through protocols the Idaho Transportation Department has set forth for new busses.

It was determined at the Idaho Falls meeting that Lemhi County needs a voice on the TRPTA Board during the transition and Howell has been volunteered by the County Commissioners to fill that role.

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