Now that election is over, real work on the RTA begins |

Now that election is over, real work on the RTA begins

Allyn Harvey

What’s the difference between a transit “agency” and a transit “authority”?

A lot more than a name change.

The congratulations over the outcome of the Nov. 7 election ended quickly at yesterday’s final meeting of the RTA policy committee, once it realized the amount of work that now needs to be done.

The policy committee is the group of elected officials from seven different jurisdictions who spent about 10 months putting together the agreement that is the foundation of the Rural Transportation Authority. The RTA was approved by a majority of voters throughout the valley. The authority will use sales taxes collected in every part of the valley, except unincorporated Garfield County, to fund and operate bus service between Rifle and Aspen.

Yesterday’s meeting was the final one for the policy committee, and the members, many of whom will end up on the RTA board of directors, took a few minutes to bask in the glory of last month’s electoral sweep.

“There’s a lot of divisiveness in the valley on one particular issue – rail – that we were able to get past and make this a success,” said Aspen City Councilman Tony Hershey. “The reason this was successful downvalley, especially in Carbondale and Glenwood, was because it’s about buses.”

“Those 83 votes that we passed the RTA by in Glenwood Springs are the most precious votes in the country – and Al Gore doesn’t get them,” said Glenwood Springs councilwoman Mary Steinbrecher.

The next step will be to form a transition plan that will allow the RTA to take over the responsibilities of RFTA, a process that’s expected to take 12 to 18 months. And the first step needed to do that is for each community to name one of its elected officials to the new RTA board of directors.

Most communities have already taken that step. So far, the RTA board includes: Aspen Mayor Rachel Richards; Basalt Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt; Carbondale Mayor Randy Vanderhurst; Eagle County Commissioner Michael Gallagher; Pitkin County Commissioner Leslie Lamont (at least until her term ends next month); and Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester. Glenwood Springs will name its representative on Dec. 7.

When the new board meets on Dec. 14, it will elect officers, select one of the jurisdictions to act as the RTA fiscal agent (the jurisdiction that’s responsible to banks and other lending organizations), assemble a team of advisors to lead the transition, adopt a preliminary budget, and discuss the steps for writing and adopting the bylaws that will govern the agency.

Roaring Fork Transit Agency director Dan Blankenship also asked that the new board approve $4 million for his agency. The money will be needed to make up for a portion of the RFTA budget that disappeared – some sale tax revenues and general fund contributions from Carbondale and Glenwood Springs – when the voters approved the RTA.

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Posted: Friday, December 1, 2000

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