by Steve Peterson
Hawarden councilors discussed Rides Inc.’s service contract, noting the city contributes $6,000 a year to the service.
Bus driver Ray Wickre and Ted Bauer, Chief Financial Officer for Rides Inc., which is a service of the Regional Transit Authority, of Spencer, attended the Nov. 14 meeting at the request of city officials.
A survey of customer needs will be done, probably through the city utility bills. About 780 people use the service with many being repeat customers.
“Do they give us monthly reports?” asked Councilor Monte Harvey.
Hawarden City Administrator Gary Tucker said the contract does but Rides does not.
“My concern is we’re spending $6,000 a year for 1,900 rides. We’re spending more than the person doing the riding. I’m not sure it is worth it,” said Harvey.
“Is there a reason why we only have 780 people using this service per year?” asked Harvey. “Can we raise that up? If we can double that, it would be self-sufficient.”
“We had 1,780 trips, 3,730 miles, 990 hours. We provide service Monday through Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with the general public rate of $2 per one-way trip. We also provide tickets through Northwest Aging and that is on a pay-based schedule. They can make a contribution based on what they want to give. We get reimbursed on that,” said Bauer.
“The costs for the service in Hawarden with the driver, the fuel, the vehicle insurance, the cell phone that is provided, vehicle repairs, driver’s safety meetings, utility reimbursement, it is $18,204 as a direct cost. There also is the direct cost from our offices in Spencer and Sheldon for $10,634 — even if we did not have a service here,” said Bauer. “With the state and federal reimbursement, our revenue is $16,430, we’re showing a deficit. Some of our contracts aren’t in a deficit, so that offsets that and we’re a non-profit so we can do that.”
“Do you see the federal or state allocations increasing or decreasing?” asked Mayor Ric Porter.
“They have dropped over the last two years and we’re trying to get that to stabilize. It’s based on our ridership and the number of miles we travel,” said Bauer. “Your ridership is low. We need to find a way to get more people to ride the bus during the hours we do provide the service. Sometimes those ideas come from the community as well. Who has a need in Hawarden to ride the bus?”
“A lot of people know we have it. I get calls from people who have appointments and trips in the next half hour. There aren’t any problems with the cost but its available times. Some people have appointments before 10:00 a.m. or after 2:30 p.m. but I can’t take those,” said Wickre, who presented councilors with letters from people who use the Rides service. “It is a lack of availability.”
“That is a good question for a lot of the communities, how do you know who needs to ride the bus,” said Bauer.
“They need to get the ridership up somehow,” said Harvey.
“It’s hard to expand the hours because the bus sits waiting for the next person to use it. We may look at adding Fridays,” said Bauer.
Another option was to add Ireton.
“We need the community to say what it needs,” said Bauer. “It is hard for people who are in their vehicles to leave the vehicles behind especially with the short number of hours.”
Bauer said the company’s buses don’t do charter trips but some special trips could be done.
“Your fees are lowest. If you raise it too much, then the number of trips goes down,” said Bauer.
“They have to increase the number of people who use the service or increase the charges,” said Harvey. “I have better places to use the $6,000 right now. Is it sustainable?”
“I think we need your contribution of $6,000 to keep the program,” said Bauer.
In other city business:
• On Nov. 14, Harvey had several questions regarding claims for payment. He voted no on the claims’ approval for a 3-1 councilors’ vote. Councilor Anderson was not present. One of Harvey’s questions was for membership dues of $354 for American Waterworks Association, which provides much training.
“Longevity pay is part of the annual resolution on wages,” said Finance Director Rens in response to another question of Harvey.
New library trustee
Denny Peters was sworn in as a member of the Hawarden Library Board of Trustees by Porter.
Mayor’s Thanksgiving message
“With Thanksgiving soon (Nov. 22) let us give thanks for all that we have, for our family and our friends. Also give thanks for those who volunteer in many ways for the city, churches and other entities such as the Hawarden Thrift Store (for the Hospital Auxiliary) and Hawarden Food Pantry,” said Porter.
Hawarden 125th book update
“The Hawarden 125th Book Committee is hoping that the books will be in by the end of the month. We don’t have a firm date yet but people will be able to give them for Christmas gifts. There were 400 ordered,” said Councilor Tim Kurth.
“We just finished realigning 25 manholes. We have about 280 total and do one-third a year. We finished the sewer cleaning and we rotate that every few years,” said Hawarden Public Works Director Tom Kane.
“The City Audit is complete. You (councilors) will get an electronic version prior to the next councilors’ meeting. It will be posted at www.cityofhawarden.com and a hard copy will be delivered to the library and be available there after Dec. 12, when Graham Forbes will make a presentation to the councilors.
“It was very positive audit and we’re thrilled with the numbers,” said Tucker.
Williams & Company of Le Mars prepares the annual city audit.
Tucker said he met with Boy Scout Troop No. 209 members, led by Dick Dunn and Roger Johnson about the city government and Boy Scouts asked questions.
“Dick and Roger do a great job as the Scout leaders,” he said.