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Committee receives request for more transit support

The Committee of the Whole heard a request from Productive Alternatives President Steve Skauge at their Wednesday evening meeting for an increase in the support Perham provides to the Otter Express transit service.

The Committee of the Whole heard a request from Productive Alternatives President Steve Skauge at their Wednesday evening meeting for an increase in the support Perham provides to the Otter Express transit service.

The transit arm of Productive Alternatives currently has two accessible buses serving Perham Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. According to Otter Express records, the buses provide 1,500-2,000 rides per month.

Skauge pointed out that with only two buses Otter Express has had to deny rides due to a lack of availability. When asked how many rides had to be denied Skauge said, “an average of 15 rides per month.”

The Committee of the Whole was informed that the operating budget of the two buses is presently $218,482. Adding a third bus would bump the operating budget up to $327,723.

Otter Express has a contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to operate the transit system. Under the contract agreement, MnDOT provides 85 percent of the operating budget leaving local sources to provide 15 percent or $49,158.45.

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The City of Perham currently provides $10,450 in support for yearly operating costs. Skauge asked for an increase in support to $25,000. Skauge said the remainder could be raised through bus fares and advertising opportunities on the buses.

Skauge pointed out there is presently an opportunity to purchase a third bus through a renewable grant with MnDOT, which would pick up 80 percent of the cost of a new $80,000 bus. He added that Perham Businessman Kenny Nelson has agreed to make the match on the bus dollars.

Otter Express has a grant application in with MnDOT that would take effect in January 2019.

Skauge said one of the advantages of adding a third bus would be the possibility of adding a route from New York Mills to Perham or from Perham to Wadena, Ottertail, Richville or Dent.

  • In other business, City Manager Jon Smith told the committee that a traffic control company which works with Burlington Northern is planning to close the Seventh Ave. NE railway crossing will be closed Tuesday, Sept. 4 through Friday, Sept. 7.
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