By Bob Balgemann


Fixed-route bus service will continue in the City of Belvidere thanks to contributions from Boone County and the city.

However, county participation depends on final approval of the 2016-17 budget, which will be effective Dec. 1, and the new spending plan having the $5,000 mentioned in a letter from County Administrator Ken Terrinoni.

Rockford Mass Transit District (RMTD), which provides the service, reiterated its request that the county help pay the cost.

After initially responding that they did not know where the money would come from, county officials came up with a plan to help the city.

First, it was determined that the county contribution would not come from the general fund. That possibility was opposed by the finance, taxation, and salaries committee at a recent meeting.

Terrinoni stated in his letter, dated July 20, that the money rather would come through a voter-approved tax levy and be a contribution to the Boone County Council on Aging (BCCA).

Belvidere City Hall, at 401 Whitney Blvd., and the BCCA complex, at 2441 Henry Lucklow Lane, home of the Keen Age Center, would be the only two bus stops under the scaled-back service provided by RMTD.

RMTD in 2012 started 10 hours worth of bus service per day, with five stops on each trip from the transfer station on the east side of Rockford.

That transportation program was greatly subsidized with no contributions from Belvidere or the county. Actually, county officials said in the beginning that they did not have the money and that paying for bus service within the city was the responsibility of the city.

It was only in 2015, as the subsidies decreased, that the city contributed $25,000 toward the cost. The county did not participate. City council continued that support in its new 2016-17 budget with another $25,000 appropriation.

However, the RMTD Board of Directors agreed earlier in 2016 that it wanted all participants in bus service to pay their way, as has been the case with Winnebago County municipalities such as Machesney Park and Loves Park.

Machesney Park, for example, pays $174,000 a year for fixed-route and para-transit services.

To continue the current level of service, Belvidere would need a contribution of $157,869. RMTD officials once again asked the county for money and requested a meeting in May to discuss that possibility.

Various officials did meet and, as a result, Terrinoni penned the July 20 letter to RMTD Executive Director Richard McVinnie. He wrote, in part, “…all of us were in agreement that given budget realities, this ($157,869 contribution) is not possible.”

So, the county’s first financial support of the service, through a contribution to BCCA, will come in the 2016-17 fiscal year, which begins Dec. 1.

BCCA already provides on-demand bus service with smaller, county-owned vehicles. It covers a larger area than RMTD buses, extending into unincorporated regions of the county.

The BCCA service is not related to that provided by RMTD.

On July 22, County board members in a 10-2 vote, with Bob Walberg and Brad Stark dissenting, agreed to make the $5,000 tax contribution to BCCA.

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