By Bill Ferguson
An open letter to the Bethel City Council:
During the November 22, 2016 City Council meeting, the Council gave their pre-approval for John Sargent, City Grant Manager, to complete and submit the FY 18 Transportation Grant application, to the Department of Transportation. I understand that there are still some concerns and there is a possibility that the City Council might withdraw the FY 18 Grant.
I encourage the City Council to continue funding the Bethel Transit System for the following reasons:
1. Last year, July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, there were 21,700+ rides provided by the bus system.
2. Of the 21,700 rides, 35% (7,600) of them were elders/seniors.
3. There are 6-8 people who use the bus system daily to go to and from work.
4. There are 6-10 people who use the bus daily with disabilities (deaf, blind, using walkers and canes, and mentally handicapped).
5. In November, 271 people signed a petition asking the City Council to continue funding the Bethel Transit System.
6. The Transit System just installed 14 new bus stop shelters and these will encourage more people to use the system.
7. By cost saving efforts the Transit System was able to save some of the match funds provided by the City for fiscal years 2015 ($4600+) and 2016 ($21,500+). This amount went back into the City’s General Fund. I was in hopes this savings, $26,000, could have been use as matching funds to purchase the two new buses. For Fiscal years 15 and 16 the City received Federal/State Transportation Grants for the buses.
The City of Bethel is a growing community and the need for a local transit system will become greater and greater. When the new Primary Care Center and hospital renovation are complete, it will employ 300 additional employees, many with additional family members. If and when the Donlin Gold Mine is approved for operation, it also will bring additional families into the community, many of whom will need transportation in town.
During the winter months the Transit System has provided free rides, in the morning and evenings, to the homeless people, to and from the Bethel Winter House. In the morning, 6:40am, from the Bethel Winter House (Uivik Subdivision Bus Stop) to town and in the evening (5:55pm) from AC Store Bus Stop to the Bethel Winter House.
A council member said the following in reference to the City Council helping to support the shelter for the homeless people.
“One of the benefits of selling alcohol legally in our community was tax revenue, and the reason that was most mentioned for that was that it could be put towards services, and this is services.”
The Bethel Transit System also provides services, to the homeless and others, many who live close to the poverty level. The Bethel Transit System is providing a service in Bethel.
If you have any other questions or concerns about the Bethel Transit System please contact me.
-Bill Ferguson, Bethel Transit System Manager