BISBEE - With only a possible $86,658 in state Local Transportation Assistance Funds to spread among all the needed transportation systems in the county, organizations that provide such transportation may have a difficult time meeting their budget.
Bisbee Bus, Vista Transit and Catholic Community Services have generally come out on top in the choices since the number of people served is so large, said Dick Schaeffer, county transportation program manager.
"Giving out to any and all providers may not be the most prudent course, or the most efficient. The growth of areas around Sierra Vista, Benson and Sunsites may cause the county to spend its LTAF funds where it is needed the most," Schaeffer said.
Vista Transit serves some 115,000 people annually in Sierra Vista.
CCS, which provides transportation services for the elderly and disabled in Double Adobe, Elfrida, Willcox, Benson, Douglas, Bisbee, Hereford, Palominas and Sierra Vista, handles about 59,400 people each year.
The Bisbee Bus, which serves the Bisbee and Naco areas, handles around 31,400 on an annual basis.
There was a suggestion to just fund those three transit systems since they handle the most county residents.
But Supervisor Paul Newman found that option unappealing.
"This is an important value decision. For us to desert organizations that rely on our funding to serve the disabled is not something I want to do. These people won't be served. It affects a lot of people, and I'm upset about it. We need to figure out a way to get more money to fund these programs," Newman said. "We need to let our legislators know this is not enough money."
Supervisor Pat Call agreed that the county needs to find more funding for transit, especially since Vista Transit is looking into serving the unincorporated areas around the city.
"There have been a lot of requests from our residents living in those areas. They want to be served," Call said.
Schaeffer confirmed that county residents were asking for the service to be extended to their areas around Sierra Vista.
Newman insisted that all the recipients of past funds be allowed to apply for some of the 2008 funding pot, after Schaeffer offered the option of just requesting applications from the big three.
"I feel this (would be) a bad policy mistake not to open it up across the board,'" he told Call and supervisor chairman Richard Searle.
They both agreed with him.
First, though, the county has to get the money which is provided through state lottery Powerball sales. A percentage of the sales is set aside for LTAF. The fiscal year 2007 collection of Powerball earnings resulted in a $10.1 million LTAF distribution for 2008, according to the state Web site.
Once the awards are announced and the funding secured, the supervisors will have to decide where the money will go. At that time, they will discuss the unincorporated Sierra Vista transportation needs.
Schaeffer also said the county was in the process of being awarded $42,500 from the Federal Transit Administration under the New Freedoms program to serve the elderly and handicapped.
Call has indicated he may use some of his discretionary funds to meet the requirements of the matching grant to provide transportation assistance for unincorporated Sierra Vista.
For that award to go through, Sierra Vista has to have a master plan in place that indicates where service is needed and how much it would cost to provide, Schaeffer said.