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franklin county times

City council upholds agency budget cuts

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Oct. 3, 2001
The East Mississippi Business Development Corp. and the Meridian Transit Authority will have less operating money after a Meridian City Council vote.
Councilmen decided last month to cut funds for both agencies. When Mayor John Robert Smith vetoed that action, the council overrode Smith on Tuesday preserving the cuts.
Nevertheless, councilmen voted 5-0 to override the mayor's veto one of two Smith lost on Tuesday. Councilmen also overrode the mayor's veto of a proposal giving owners of manufactured homes six months to upgrade their housing.
EMBDC gets hit
The EMBDC is the chief economic development agency in Lauderdale County. Last year, Meridian gave the EMBDC $93,000 for its operating budget; this year, the city dropped EMBDC funding $6,790 to $86,210.
EMBDC representatives could not be reached for comment on the city council's action or to discuss if and how the reduced funding will affect their efforts.
The Transit Authority provides public transportation in the city. The Transit Authority had requested $139,000 this year; the city, however, gave the agency $118,300.
The Transit Authority's reduced funding could result in an additional loss of $60,000 in matching funds from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
Smith said the loss in funding could "severely cripple" the Transit Authority s ability to provide public transportation. Smith said that low-income residents will be the ones most likely affected.
Evelyn Bumpers, executive director of the Transit Authority, said she could not say which services might change. The Meridian Transit Commission could discuss the Transit Authority's financial situation at its next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Oct. 16 at Union Station.
Agency provides service
Bumpers said the Transit Authority's $459,000 operating budget includes $233,700 in federal funds through MDOT, $118,300 from Meridian and $107,000 from bus fares and charter fees.
The Transit Authority offers regular daily service at 52 stops citywide from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, a bus line for the elderly and disabled that runs from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and a Naval Air Station Meridian route that runs on weekends.
Bumpers said the Transit Authority's nine buses made a total of 2,395 trips in August; almost 2,300 trips in July; and almost 3,000 trips in June. She said the figures include 25-30 trips each day for elderly and disabled people.
Bumpers said the mayor is correct when saying low-income residents could be affected by any cut in service, adding that the Transit Authority is also the only entity in the area that has vehicles with wheelchair lifts.
City Council President George Thomas, who represents Ward 1, said later that the council will "re-examine" subsidies but the override means the budget stands as approved for now.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.

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