Augusta City Leaders Battle As Bus Deadline Looms

Augusta City Leaders Battle As Bus Deadline Looms (Image 1)

It's how Stella Mathis rolls; she depends on the bus to get around. “I use it often, because it's my only way of traveling, and lots of people,” she said, waiting on a bus at the transfer station.

But, Augusta Commissioners need to change drivers. Out at the end of July is Mobility Transit, the company hired two years ago.

The recommendation is to replace it with another company…McDonald Transit out of Fort Worth, Texas.  

“Through the RFP process, we've come up here with a good option here with McDonald. We need to move forward quickly,” says Commissioner Mary Davis.

City leaders held a work session on McDonald Tuesday morning, but only four members made the meeting. Commissioner Marion Williams stayed away, he said, for a reason. “I'm not going to let them jerk me around like that, call us to a meeting when they get ready, when they should have done this six eight months ago. Here we are up against the wall, as always,” said Williams.

The city is against the wall, though, as Commissioners are not scheduled to vote until July 16th on whether to begin negotiating with the new company. That's leading some to suggest extending Mobility's contract, even though the company is suing the city.

“Never say never, but at this point, that would be a call for the lawyer to make,” said City Administrator Fred Russell, who is recommending the McDonald.

But, if negotiations can't be worked out, that could put the city back in the bus business…but some Commissioners don't want to go down that route.

“I will not support bringing it in-house for any length more than ten days until we get a contract,” said Commissioner Joe Jackson.

But, taking no action could bring bus service to a screeching halt by August. “One would suggest, I have no further leeway to continue,” says Russell.  “The operation of bus service ends?” we asked.  “One would suggest that's the possibility, yes,” says Russell.

“If the bus system stops, Fred Russell needs to stop. If they go, he needs to go,” says Williams, who does not believe he would be partially to blame if negotiations break down by not attending the work session.

For bus riders, however, it could be an even hotter August if Commissioners can't agree to a plan to keep the busses rolling.

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