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County to seek grants for buses

The commission also says the county will pick up the 20 percent of the costs of a limited public bus system that Brooksville was expected to pay.

Hernando County moved closer to a limited public bus system to start in 2001 when the County Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday to apply for state and federal grants.

"We have to plan for future growth," Commissioner Nancy Robinson said. "We know it's coming."

As part of the vote, commissioners agreed the county would assume responsibility for the 20 percent share of costs that planners had expected Brooksville to bear. Brooksville City Council members have recently said they do not think the city should have to contribute.

Projections show the city's portion would rise from $3,207 next year to $26,404 in 2004, while the county would contribute $12,568 next year and $103,480 in 2004. The figures represent a 20-80 split.

Even if the county absorbed Brooksville's share, more than half the costs during the first five years would come from the state and federal grants. Fares would generate only $37,600 a year.

The five 25-seat buses would not roll until late 2001. Four buses would circulate in Spring Hill, while the fifth would shuttle riders between Spring Hill and Brooksville. The shuttle would also make a loop through Brooksville.

Rides would cost 50 cents apiece, and buses would run about every 45 minutes, according to Hugh Pascoe, the county's transportation planning adviser.

Most of the discussion Tuesday was taken up by Commissioners Bobbi Mills and Paul Sullivan, the two opponents of the plan.

Mills raised the possibility that the county's share of the costs could rise significantly if state and federal money dries up. She also questioned why taxpayers in Ridge Manor, Hernando Beach or Masaryktown should subsidize a system they probably would not use.

On the other side, Robinson said buses would help youths, and not only the elderly or disabled. She said teenagers might be more likely to take part in "appropriate" activities if they could catch a bus home later.

Pascoe said whoever climbed on board, the buses would not be empty. He projects between 55,000 and 75,000 rides per year. Although the buses would travel mainly down major roads such as Cortez Boulevard and Mariner Boulevard, buses could deviate up to half a mile from routes. Passengers who wanted special routes would have to call ahead.

Those who lived farther away would still be able to call Trans-Hernando, a door-to-door service that caters mainly to seniors and people with disabilities.

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