GAINESVILLE - Hall County Commissioners said Monday they're looking at an intergovernmental agreement that would allow the City of Gainesville to apply for federal operations funding for the Red Rabbit bus service.
When the Commission met two weeks ago they rejected the funding grant application for nearly $400,000, 50 percent of the money needed to run the buses. Commissioners want the city to apply for the funds and also assume the liability for operating the service according to Chairman Dick Mecum.
"I think primarily what we're looking at is an agreement," Mecum said. "The Department of Transportation is saying it would be permissible for Gainesville now to apply for the funds for Red Rabbit. If Gainesville applies for it and does this week that's basically what we'll be voting on Thursday."
Mecum added the agreement includes giving Gainesville the existing buses plus seven new buses which the Commission approved separately two weeks ago.
"What we're trying to do is keep it rolling without any interruption," Mecum said.
County Grants Manager Jessica Robinson said GDOT would be willing to hear what the city and county have to say about bus operations.
"It doesn't matter who applies for the grant in retrospect when it's just a determination of what the city and county agree upon," Robinson said. "We'll definitely know something on Thursday."
Appearing before the Board was My Sister's Place Managing Director Brandee Thomas.
"We are a homeless shelter in Gainesville serving women and mothers with children," Thomas told commissioners. "We have been providing a fresh start for residents for the last 13 years and a key to that fresh start is securing and maintaining employment that requires transportation."
Thomas said in the past year only two of 50 shelter guests had their own vehicle and that means dependence of Red Rabbit Transit.
"The position that you all take concerning funding for the Red Rabbit isn't just about agreements between governments," Thomas added. "It's about impacting the lives of Hall County's residents. Our residents aren't looking for hand-outs, they're looking for opportunities made possible by access to public transportation."
Thomas asked commissioners not to take action that would 'cripple Hall's public transportation system and lead to the elimination of the Red Rabbit'. Commissioners also heard appeals from four 'My Sister's Place' residents, including Rosanna Hope Bisbing.
"I don't know what I will do if the line is eliminated," Bisbing said. "I need the bus line to get my family back together and in our own home."
Bisbing said she has talked to other passengers who ride the bus, people who are disabled and people on fixed incomes that don't have a personal vehicle.
"We as a community need to keep the Red Rabbit running for everyone in the community," she concluded.