By Stephen Hawboldt
Andy Kerr, chair of the Bridgetown and Area Chamber of Commerce, would like the business community to be consulted on public transit issues in the region. He said that local businesses have not been involved in these discussions and he would like that to change.
Kerr would also like to see these public discussions to involve greater participation from the three towns. He said that too often the municipality makes their own decisions on issues that have implications for the entire region. He added that he is still waiting for a response to two letters that he has sent to the municipality over the past several months.
He said that he is hoping to discuss the issue with the two councillors that represent county residents in the Bridgetown area. Councillor Wayne Flower represents the area north of the town, while Councillor Tim Habinski services communities on the south side of the Annapolis River.
Annapolis County staff is recommending to county council that the bus schedule for the Bridgetown to Cornwallis service be cut to the level available from Kingston to Bridgetown. This would reduce the subsidy paid by county taxpayers by about $50,000 annually. The previous council delayed acting on this recommendation until after the October municipal elections. The new council is slated to discuss the scheduling issue this month.
There are other concerns. Contractual arrangements among all the players are currently in flux. Annapolis Royal has withdrawn, agreements with the other towns are pending, and the contract with Kings Transit is not finalized. The issues are further complicated because Kings Transit, under a separate agreement with municipal councils in Digby, also provides public transit that links from Windsor to Weymouth.
One or more of the current buses will need to be replaced according to county staff. These cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each depending on the bus purchased. Because all agreements are influx, there is uncertainty as to how these will be financed.
As the original contract with Kings Transit did not require the collection of user data, little or no information is available on who is using the buses when and where. County CAO, Brenda Orchard said transit is only potentially available to the 30 per cent of county residents who live within one kilometer of a transit line.
All of this may be complicated by the frosty relationship between the Municipality, Kings Transit and its municipal owners in Kings County. The courts have been asked to resolve a dispute between Kings Transit and Annapolis County regarding the division of a federal regional transit grant received several years ago. This issue is still before the courts. While Annapolis County appoints a non-voting representative to the Kings Transit board of directors that representative reports that he does not receive notification of meetings or other information.