Ottumwa Transit office

Courier file photo

OTTUMWA — A proposal by 10-15 Transit to take over operation of Ottumwa’s municipal transit system is in the hands of the city council following presentations from that organization and Ottumwa Transit.

The offer grew out of efforts to reach a deal on a memorandum of understanding required by the Iowa Department of Transportation in order for both 10-15 Transit and Ottumwa Transit to serve Ottumwa residents.

Ottumwa Transit had a little more than 138,000 riders in Fiscal 2018. The airport route was the most heavily used, something Kirk attributed to the route’s popularity with Job Corps students. The ridership for 10-15 Transit included 11,000 rides in the first six months of the current fiscal year.

The two use different approaches. Ottumwa Transit’s ridership is largely, though not exclusively, based on five fixed routes. By contrast, 10-15 Transit’s operations are based on rides for people who call for the service. The two services operated in tandem from 1992 to 2014, but separated.

The latter figure caught Councilman Marc Roe’s attention. Riders with 10-15 Transit include people from outside Wapello County. “Were these numbers specific to Ottumwa city limits?” he asked

“These were only door-to-door service in Ottumwa,” replied Jay Allison of 10-15 Transit.

And that is the key question facing the council. Without an agreement, 10-15 Transit will likely be required to cease operations within Ottumwa Transit’s territory. Allison said that would take effect March 1. If the council approves the takeover, 10-15 Transit would absorb Ottumwa Transit effective with the beginning of the 2021 fiscal year.

Presentations from each operation tried to tug on council members’ heartstrings. David Silverio, Ottumwa Transit’s director, said the longest-tenured employee is a driver with 27 years’ experience. A mechanic has 23 years. And more than 20 people are employed by the service.

“These are people with families and little kids who will lose their jobs,” he said. “They have trusted this city.”

Allison pointed to his organization’s ability to operate at hours outside Ottumwa Transit’s schedule. “These are rides to take people to work at 5 a.m., for dialysis at 4 a.m. to give life-sustaining treatment,” he said.

Comments from a large crowd supported Ottumwa Transit. Terry Bradley, the county’s director of veteran affairs, praised the city’s transit system for their work with veterans and willingness to help.

Bradley’s biggest concern was the effect 10-15 Transit might have on his department’s bottom line. He said the company charges $1.65 per mile for round trips to Iowa City, where many veterans need treatment.

“That’s a little pricey,” he said.

Bradley wasn’t the only person who spoke on behalf of an organization. Mary Margaret Butler of Whatsoever You Do said her organization’s outreach depends on Ottumwa Transit on a regular basis.

“I deal on a daily basis with homeless people. I deal with people who have lost their jobs and have no money,” she said. “All I have to do is call Mary at Ottumwa Transit and they provide me with bus passes.”

Butler said that service has helped get people out of very difficult situations, including times when people needed transportation to be able to find housing.

The city is not finished gathering information. Mayor Tom Lazio, who is interim city administrator, said additional steps will take place in the coming days.

“I will consult with City Attorney Joni Keith when she returns next week and I will get in touch with someone from the DOT,” he said.

The council took no action on the proposal. Action is likely later this month during the council’s next meeting.

Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

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Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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