By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE – Thanks in part to the Belvidere City Council, Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD) will continue to provide fixed-route bus service to the city through June 2017.

What happens after that is unknown and RMTD officials want a meeting with the city and Boone County to discuss options.

Possibilities range from Belvidere paying the full amount for the service to it being discontinued.

The district’s executive director, Richard McVinnie, addressed the matter in a recent letter to Mayor Mike Chamberlain and County Administrator Ken Terrinoni.

In providing background, he said grant dollars were used to begin the service for a two-year period. At the end of that time, he said it was understood the service would have to be self-sustaining.

While he stated that both the city and county determined the service was valuable, revenue collected was less than expected and not sufficient to fund the local match.

Still, the district decided to continue the service, using federal dollars as the match for the Illinois Downstate Operating Assistance Program funds, while hoping the local economy would continue to improve.

Last year, McVinnie reminded that the city of Belvidere provided a $25,000 subsidy to keep the service going through June 2016. RMTD officials, he said, hoped ridership would continue to improve and that the county would provide a match in order to continue the current level of service.

The city has provided another $25,000, in its 2016-2017 budget.

However, the RMTD board of trustees, at its February meeting, decided it was time for the level of funding to be the same as it is with other municipalities, such as Machesney Park and Loves Park, which receive bus service.

Machesney Park, for example, put $176,400 in its current budget to continue fixed route and paratransit service for another year. Paratransit pickup is available to those who aren’t physically able to access a regular bus.

While the district hopes the county will participate in financially supporting bus service, Administrator Terrinoni reminded that “we told them (RMTD) from Day 1 not to count on the county for help. So that’s nothing new.”

Should the county board decide to provide some level of funding, he said he didn’t know where the money would come from.

“We’re not into our budget cycle yet,” he said.

There recently was an attempt to remove the $25,000 subsidy from the city’s 2016-2017 budget.

However, the amendment to the spending plans ultimately failed, 8-1 and remained in the city’s new appropriation.

The most recent ridership figure available shows 8,907 using buses in Belvidere proper for the six-month period ending Dec. 31. That compares with 8,609 for the same period in 2014.

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