The Oro Valley Town Council voted 5-2 June 18 to reconsider its original vote to continue funding the Coyote Run transit system for at least one more year.
By voting to reconsider its original position, the council is now required to repeat the review process. A second public hearing will have to be held, and the council will have to revote on the issue.
That vote and public hearing could come as early as July 20, although no exact date was set.
Voting in favor of what council members called “more discussion” on the issue were Mayor Satish Hiremath, Vice Mayor Mary Snider and councilmen Joe Hornat, Steve Solomon and Lou Waters.
Voting against the measure were councilmen Barry Gillaspie and William Garner.
The council’s June 1 vote to keep Coyote Run prompted the Regional Transportation Authority, with whom the town had been negotiating for alternative transportation, to send Hiremath a letter on June 7.
“Needless to say, we were certainly surprised and disappointed at Oro Valley’s Town Council’s decision last week to continue Coyote Run in its current format,” wrote RTA Executive Director Gary Hayes in the letter. “As you know, RTA staff has been working closely with town staff to achieve a win-win solution for the residents of Oro Valley and the RTA, and frankly, were led to believe that the solution had the support of the town’s elected officials.”
Hayes added the RTA worked to ensure Oro Valley residents who depend on public transportation are not left without transportation options. Adjustments changed service-area boundaries of the special needs transit services provided by Handicar to accommodate ADA-qualified riders, and provided trips outside the Sun Shuttle service area to the Northwest Community Hospital facilities.
“How we proceed from here is uncertain at best and I would appreciate any advice you might offer,” wrote Hayes. “I am reluctant to continue RTA staff involvement in an initiative that appears to have little if any support from your colleagues on the town council and does not promote seamless travel and connectivity throughout the region.”
While other council members have been open to RTA as an alternative, Councilman Garner said he does not think that’s the best option for Oro Valley.
While Snider said she is comfortable turning the program over to the RTA, it is obvious residents are not, and until all questions and concerns are addressed, the council should take time to deal with the issue.
Despite voting yes to reconsider the measure, Snider noted her vote in favor of keeping Coyote Run for another year has not changed at this time. Solomon and Waters had the reconsideration placed on the June 15 agenda.
Prior to last Wednesday’s meeting, Solomon said the June 1 meeting, where the council voted 6-1 to continue funding Coyote Run, got too emotional.
Waters explained during the June 18 meeting that he felt Transit Director Aimee Ramsey didn’t provide the same caliber of information during the June 1 public hearing as she did to Sun City Vistoso residents just four days before, leaving Coyote Run riders with too many unanswered questions.
Waters said he felt Ramsey “dropped the ball.”
Snider agreed, noting that there seemed to be more questions than answers during the first public hearing where residents pleaded with the council to keep Coyote Run in transit.
Gillaspie said there may have been too many questions without answers because the actual riders of Coyote Run provided the council with good “cross examination.”
Garner said it’s not right to drag residents through the entire process all over again, and the council should continue funding it for now.
Before the council approved the final $94.2 million budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Finance Director Stacey Lemos said in total the transit program will cost $451,000, with an anticipated $193,000 in revenues for the entire year.
If the council does vote to end the program, it will have to be funded at least through September.
The Oro Valley transit system provides rides to residents who are 62 and over, or disabled. There are currently 816 regular riders.
The town had been negotiating with the RTA to provide the alternative service in preparation to stop funding Coyote Run in the upcoming fiscal year.
Mayor Hiremath favors the RTA, saying an alternative program is needed since the state is no longer helping to fund Coyote Run.