RFTA to Garfield County: Pay up or Hogback gets cut | AspenTimes.com

RFTA to Garfield County: Pay up or Hogback gets cut

GARFIELD COUNTY – The governments of Garfield County, Rifle and Silt must cough up nearly $150,000 to avoid having their bus service eliminated starting April 12, officials with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority said Thursday.

RFTA’s board of directors issued a generic ultimatum in their meeting last month. On Thursday, they unveiled how much it will cost the western Garfield County entities to keep their bus service alive.

Garfield County and Rifle have traditionally made voluntary contributions for service. RFTA says it isn’t enough. RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship said the entities must pay an additional $149,074 to pay for the service scheduled in 2010.

Blankenship will present the bill to the Garfield County commissioners in a meeting at 8 a.m. Monday. “I’ve been focusing my efforts on Garfield County,” Blankenship said, adding the county government is in the best shape “to help bridge the gap.”

The gap exists because RFTA extended service west to Rifle years ago even though Silt, Rifle and Garfield County aren’t official members of the transportation agency. Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and New Castle as well as Pitkin and Eagle counties are members and collect a dedicated sales tax for RFTA service.

RFTA officials have rattled sabers for years, warning the alleged freeloaders their service would be cut if they didn’t pay up. The threat has been idle in the past but appears real now.

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Western Garfield County is served by the Grand Hogback route, which provides buses along the Interstate 70 corridor between Glenwood Springs and Rifle from 5:15 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., seven days per week.

The operating and capital costs for that service are about $913,000 for next year, according to Blankenship’s calculations. Fares will produce almost $186,000 in revenues.

Garfield County has tentatively agreed to pay $465,000 for service next year while Rifle is tentatively contributing $20,000. Blankenship also applied one-half of New Castle’s estimated tax revenue toward the service, adding $93,000.

That leaves the deficit of $149,074 for the Grand Hogback bus service.

Silt Mayor David Moore sent RFTA a letter asking it not to shut down bus service. He noted that tough economic times are hitting all local governments.

“Eliminating the mass transit in our area will further negatively affect our citizens, as well as the merchants in the Roaring Fork Valley who depend on employees from our area,” Moore noted in the letter. He asked for a forum to discuss continued service for Silt.

RFTA board members were determined to stick to their demand. Even if the $149,074 is paid, RFTA’s members are still subsidizing service to the I-70 corridor to some degree, said RFTA director and Snowmass Village councilman John Wilkinson.

“All we’re asking for is compensation for some of the cost,” he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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