Blue River opposes Summit Stage privatization
The Blue River Board of Trustees has come out against a proposed privatization of the Summit Stage, saying it doesn’t know what the move would mean and protesting its exclusion from conversations about the system’s future.
The board unanimously approved a resolution last week opposing the idea of outsourcing the sales-tax-funded transit program to a private company. Drivers and a number of private citizens are also actively working against privatization.
For Blue River officials, the move is just another significant transit decision from which they will be left out. The small southern town is not connected to the Summit Stage routes and is not given a place on the system’s board of directors.
“We’ve never been invited to the table,” Mayor Lindsay Backas said. “We don’t know what this means. Nobody has told us anything.”
The transit board is made up of representatives of several Summit County towns, the county government, the drivers and several local ski resorts.
The resolution passed June 18 focuses largely on Blue River’s lack of bus service and exclusion from transit planning in the county, but states the town’s leaders don’t expect a for-profit company to expand the existing Stage routes, particularly to less populated areas in the county.
“The town Board respectfully demands that the Summit County Commissioners and the Transit Board expand Summit Stage service to include the town of Blue River and areas south of Breckenridge,” the resolution states. “The residents of the town of Blue River have been paying for this service. The time has come for the Summit County Commissioners and the Transit Board to deliver.”
Transit officials say the Summit Stage, which faced a $300,000 budget shortfall this year, can’t afford to expand the bus service.
“We have looked at implementing service to Blue River, but have not been able to do so because of a lack of funding,” board president Kent Willis said.
He said the board would be willing to ask the Summit County government to add a seat for a Blue River representative as well.
The Stage’s tight budget was one of several factors prompting officials to begin exploring the idea of outsourcing operations to a private company.
“We would like to think that if we did (privatize), it would help create a more sustainable system,” assistant county manager Thad Noll told the Daily in a prior interview. “We cannot keep doing what we’re doing for the same amount of money.”
No decisions have been made, but county officials confirmed in March there have been conversations with First Vehicle Services, the contractor that currently handles the maintenance on all county vehicles.
The county will solicit proposals from other companies interested in the contract as well. Noll said there will have to be assurance that a private company could continue to offer a high level of customer service and save the system money for a privatization deal to go through.
The high-level orchestration of the Summit Stage operation and routes would remain under the control of the existing transit board and a system director. Officials say no jobs, or even pay, would be lost in the transition.
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