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County board approves Handy Bus rate hike
December 06, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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After a public hearing without much public comment, Scotts Bluff County Commissioners approved a rate hike for its Handy Bus service.

Local resident Maggie Bernal was the only person to speak, and she spoke in favor of the rate hike. She said it was a good service and was reasonably priced, much more reasonable than the overall cost of operating a vehicle.

Carol Prince, the county’s operations director, made the rate hike request earlier this year because of the rising cost of operating the service.

She told commissioners she had received little comment about the proposed rate hike, but most of it was positive.

Currently, the county is losing about $55,000 a year. The increase would lower that loss to around $51,000.

Under the new rate, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2013, a one-way trip for riders picked up in Lyman and Morrill would go up to $5 from the current $4. Riders in Melbeta, Mitchell and Minatare, currently paying $3 for a one-way trip, would see the fare go up to $4. And in Gering and Scottsbluff, the one-way would increase from $1.50 to $2.

Scottsbluff and Gering account for 95 percent of the Handy Bus business. The other five percent is for out-of-town trips. The rate hike is projected to generate another $4,300 during the next fiscal year.

In other action, commissioners voted to approach the City of Scottsbluff about purchasing the former Aurora Loan Services property on 5th Ave. in Scottsbluff for a proposed reporting center for District 12 probation.

Under an agreement with the state, Scotts Bluff County is responsible for providing office space for District 12 probation, which is currently located in the county administrative building and courthouse.

District 12 Executive Director Linda Buehler said the facility could not only provide office space for probation officers, but also offer rehabilitative services as an alternative to jail for non-violent offenders.

Buehler recommended using only the east building. However, county board chairman Mark Masterton said Scottsbluff might want the county to also purchase or lease the west building as well.

The county board earmarked $7,000 for an architect to study whether
the buildings can be renovated. But they must first decide whether to pursue the purchase of the building, do nothing, or build their own facility to fit District 12 probation needs.
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