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Hernando commissioners uphold 50 percent cut in bus service

BROOKSVILLE — Despite pleas from some residents, the Hernando County Commission went ahead Tuesday with its plan to cut by half the service offered by THE Bus, the county's fixed-route transit system.

For riders, that means a two-hour wait between buses instead of the current one-hour wait.

Officials said the changes would cut costs by $420,000, about $142,000 of which is borne by Hernando County.

Commissioners proposed the service cuts in April and set a mandatory 30-day comment period for the public to weigh in. Dennis Dix, the county's metropolitan planning coordinator, said that of the 41 responses his office received, 82 percent favored keeping THE Bus service as is. The remaining 18 percent favored reducing or eliminating the service.

Dix said the current route schedule will continue until Sept. 30.

"It's a real paradox," Commission Chairman David Russell told the audience at Tuesday's board meeting.

Resident Rosemary Sonnenberg argued that THE Bus is important to the county because it serves primarily low-income workers and elderly and disabled residents.

"These buses are essential to our future," Sonnenberg said. "If anything, it needs to be expanded."

Bobbi Mills, a longtime opponent of THE Bus and a former county commissioner, said the service doesn't make much sense because it serves only a portion of Hernando residents. "It's not the majority of the people," she said.

THE Bus began service in 2002. Federal grants of $730,000 covered the entire capital cost of the project. The county contributes $511,000 annually toward the operating costs.

Over the years, however, the transit system has become something of a political football.

In April, commissioners voted to spend $45,000 to refurbish the original bus fleet rather than seek federal stimulus dollars for new buses. The reason: It would have tied the county to providing bus service for the next 10 years.

In other commission action:

• The board gave a $93,000 jobs creation grant to Chasco Machine & Manufacturing Inc. to move its precision robotic manufacturing operation to a 30,000-square-foot plant at the county airport industrial park. The business will eventually employ 31 people to make spare parts for commercial aircraft.

• The board approved the appointment of Dr. Stacy Strickland as county extension services director, replacing retiring director Donna Peacock. Strickland has served as the agency's small farms specialist since 2004.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

Hernando commissioners uphold 50 percent cut in bus service 06/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 23, 2009 7:37pm]
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