Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
With two buses and two drivers in hand and another driver on the way, North Central Montana Transit is set to celebrate i t s beginning Monday with a launch celebration at the Montana State University- Northern campus. Rebecca Farr of Opportuni ty Link, the Havre-based anti-poverty group that spearheaded the creation of the transit system, said the festivities will start at noon by the Student Union Building at Northern. Jim Lyons, director of the transit system, said at least one of the buses will be at the celebration for at least part of the time depending on the schedule to transport passengers. The finalized schedule is expected to be released later this week, he said. Farr said at a recent meeting that celebrations in the other communities served by the transit system will be planned for later dates. Lyons said the larger of the two buses, a white bus with a 16 to 18 passenger capacity, is going through its final preparations at a local garage. That already has been done on the smaller bus, a former yellow school bus wi th a 14-passenger capacity. The program has been funded through the Montana Department of Transportation with a $75,000 startup grant and $227,000 through the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to purchase three buses, expected to arrive the first quarter of 2010. Opportunity Link wrote the grant applications for the money, and its executive director, Barb Stiffarm, said at a recent meeting that other grant applications are still pending. Lyons said today negotiations for other buses to lease until the transit system’s permanent buses arrive are under way. The system has hired two drivers Bob Waldron and Bruce James and Lyons said this morning the hiring of a third driver is nearly finalized. The system is intended to transport passengers, free of charge, to and from Fort Belknap and Box Elder to Havre, making stops in Harlem and Chinook on the easterly run. Each run would include several stops in Havre, such as at Northern Montana Hospital, Montana State University-Northern, Wal-Mart, the Holiday Village Mall and a stop or stops downtown. The bus would return along the route, with passengers able to get on that bus or wait until one of the later runs. Lyons said he has negotiated an agreement for a stop at the old IGA parking lot, at 15 West 1st Street, to use for people to park their vehicles and ride the bus. He said this morning that the topend bus the system will receive from the Department of Transportation next year also will have a bike rack. The plans also included two runs a week from Havre to Great Falls, with the buses making several stops in Great Falls and returning later in the day to pick up passengers at those stops and return them to Havre.