Passengers utilizing the Eagle Eye route provided by the Northwoods Transit Connections will see changes to the route come January.
Changes to the route were presented to the commission in November and were brought back to the commission at its meeting Monday.
Originally, the Eagle Eye route serviced Land O’ Lakes, Phelps, Conover and Eagle River. While the route intends to still service those municipalities, starting Jan. 1, it will do so in a more limited capacity.
Proposed changes to the route include reducing service in Phelps from a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule to one providing transportation to the Land O’ Lakes food pantry every first and third Wednesday of the month. An additional service will provide Phelps residents transportation to Rhinelander every other Friday.
“And the additional change for the Eagle Eye route then would be to provide service that we’re not currently providing to Boulder Junction and Manitowish Waters, connecting both of those every Monday and every other Friday to Woodruff,” transit manager Roger Youngren said.
Youngren met with the Boulder Junction Town Board to go over the proposed route and the town’s contribution to support the service.
For Boulder Junction, that amount is $2,500, the same as would be contributed by the town of St. Germain in 2020, Youngren said.
“They said they’d take the $2,500 at the next meeting in December, which I believe is Dec. 17,” Youngren said.
In addition to meeting with the Boulder Junction Town Board, Youngren said he had been in contact with the chambers of commerce in Manitowish Waters and Boulder Junction.
“They’ve been very, very positive about it and very helpful, so I’m sure we’ll get the word out there, probably better than we did in 2019, where we proposed the new service to Land O’ Lakes and Conover,” Youngren added.
A public meeting in the town of Phelps is scheduled for Dec. 11 to inform residents about the intended changes to the route.
“So you have two items that you’d cover in that public hearing if you want this to be effective the first of January,” commission chair Erv Teichmiller said.
Those items, according to Teichmiller, would be the change in the local service that’s offered to Land O’ Lakes and the route change.
“We could identify both fare increase and the change in the route schedule that’s impacting Phelps, does that sound alright?” he said.
Teichmiller asked if the changes only affected riders in Phelps.
Youngren said it did, as ridership reports indicated there hadn’t been any riders from Land O’ Lakes or Conover.
According to Youngren, the NTC would continue to serve both the Land O’ Lakes and Conover communities, but it wouldn’t be a publicized schedule.
“What’s really affected in the new routes are the Phelps people, so that’s why we called the meeting in Phelps on Dec. 11,” Youngren said.
As the commission was only altering a route, rather than discontinuing service, Teichmiller raised the question as to whether a public meeting was necessary.
Youngren said the meeting had been the suggestion of the Department of Transportation.
Teichmiller directed Youngren to advertise the meeting in Phelps as a public hearing “just so the language is clear.”
In regard to adding the Boulder Junction route, Teichmiller asked if a public hearing was required to add a service and said if it wasn’t, to not include it on the agenda for the Phelps hearing.
Following closed session Monday, the OVTC approved two motions. The first was to proceed with a Multimodal Local Supplement (MLS) grant through the Wisconsin DOT for a potential new facility in Eagle River.
The second motion passed was to pursue the leasing of the Eagle River property contingent upon changes to the lease agreement to be approved by either the executive committee or full commission.
“If we get the grant up in Eagle River and we’re able to purchase that building, we’ll have over 4,000 square feet of heated space for the busses to be parked in as well as our mechanic to work out of the elements,” Youngren said.
Youngren added that though the grant application was due Dec. 6, it wouldn’t be awarded until mid-February with the funds being released in late May to early June. If awarded, the state would pay up to 90% of the total eligible costs whereas the OVTC would have to come up with the other 10% locally, Youngren said.
“That’s why we’re pursuing the lease for a year, to make sure that we’ve got someplace — if we don’t receive the grant — we’ve got someplace that we can call home for at least a year, and give us enough time to look for a lower rent situation,” Youngren said.
The OVTC Monday also:
• Set a public hearing for January regarding a local fare increase.
• Approved the 2020 budget for $811,841.
Included in the budget were the proposed route changes, a year’s rent for the new facility, and funds for a yearly audit.
“We asked them (Wipfli) for continuing the relationship going forward,” Youngren said. “If we could commit to them, that we’d be doing an audit with for the next three years, they’d drop their number to $7,000.”
Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]