The local paper informs us Kootenai County is going to receive $1.29 million in transit funds as part of the stimulus program. It is slated to go to an ad hoc group known as the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization.
They plan to spend $300,000 to replace a pair of City Link buses, $150,000 for wheelchair accessible mini-buses and $50,000 for a para transit bus. I'm assuming this is a full size bus, rather than a mini. Another $70,000 is slated to go for a maintenance vehicle for City Link. So far so good. This is a free service, in conjunction with the Coeur d'Alene tribe, to transport people from town to town and to the tribe's casino.
What I choked on was the $720,200 that will be used for an environmental study to choose a site for a transit center.
Here's my problem. I appreciate looking ahead. However, in this time of need, and there is plenty of it in this area, I'm wondering if this is the time for at least a portion of these expenditures. Ridership has been up because of increased routes, high gas prices and a brutal winter. Winter is nearly over, gas prices have leveled off and the destinations are all places for riders to spend money that most don't have. The casino? Cabelas? Great places for those who have disposable income. Even the seniors who have made the route to the casino a popular one are having to pinch their pennies.
Now, where does this money go? Does it stay in the community? Are those buses manufactured or outfitted in Kootenai County? Or does that money go else where?
And the study? Is that large an expenditure really necessary? Who will be doing it? A firm within the county or will that money also be going elsewhere?
We're then told the transit center, once the location is determined, will cost $1.3 million. One, how do they know this since the location is to be determined by the $720,200 study! Where is the additional money to come from and just what is this "stimulating"?
The remaining wish list that includes money for a jail the voters turned down, a fire station for a rural town and a building for a boys and girls club will at least create construction and staffing jobs. Whether monies for those projects will be forthcoming is any one's guess. I hope a lot of it does. But back to basics, I find it hard to believe $720,200 couldn't be put to better use than deciding where to put a fancy bus stop.
Stimulus: • a thing that rouses activity or energy in someone or something; a spur or incentive : if the tax were abolished, it would act as a stimulus to exports.
If there are no jobs created in the short term there will be no riders for the bus system in the long term. No one will be afford to play the slots and Cabelas will close its doors along with the businesses that have already done so or are slated to do so in the near term. No one paid me $720,200 to figure that out!