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Johnson County supervisors to draft letter, inviting city mayors to discuss SEATS funding

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | MARCH 08, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Johnson County Board of Supervisors decided to invite the mayors of Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty to hold a public meeting with them in order to reach a compromise over the future of the SEATS program.

The city councils and the county board have debated a funding plan for the para-transit program in recent months after the county announced the decision to suspend funding.

During Thursday’s meeting, supervisors discussed a letter they received from the city mayors on March 1. In the letter, the mayors requested the county continue to subsidize SEATS but cut the amount by 50 percent. City officials hope for $305,000 worth of county subsidies for a five-year period.

Approximately $225,000 would be directed to supporting Iowa City ridership, whereas the remaining $80,000 would be funneled into operating the Coralville and North Liberty portions.
Supervisor head Janelle Rettig became frustrated during Thursday’s meeting over what she says is lack of communication by local city officials.

“I will meet with them anywhere in public; basically anytime they want,” she said. “I have not received a reply, so I don’t know exactly what I need to do.”

She further scrutinized the ability of Iowa City and Coralville to provide sufficient para-transit services if the funds from the county no longer existed.

“These buses do break down on the road,” she said. “Will the cities provide emergency responses when they break down?”

SEATS has provided door-to-door service since the 1970s for individuals with disabilities, senior citizens, and others in need of assistance. It maintains 23 buses. Ten are owned by Iowa City, three by Coralville, and 10 by the East Central Iowa Council of Governments.

Supervisor Rod Sullivan urged supervisors to meet with area officials as soon as possible.

“It seems to me that we’ve just been negotiating with ourselves,” Sullivan said. “The fact is riders and drivers want to see us sitting down [with city officials] and working on this, so let’s not delay it. Let’s do this.”

Supervisor Terrence Neuzil briefly brought up the possibility of using additional area revenue sources to fund the future of SEATS.

“I don’t wonder if there isn’t an opportunity to potentially fund SEATS through [tax increment financing],” he said. “Clearly, there is an opportunity for local governments to have additional resources. We’ll see if [TIF use] has any legs or not. I’m interested in seeing if the cities can put their money where their mouth is.”

Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett said if they have to make cuts, they will do so in a way that will minimize inconvenience for riders. Hopefully, he said, they won’t have to make that decision.

“We’re hoping the county will continue to ‘subsidize,’ as they call it, so that we don’t have to cut services at all,” he said.


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