Monday, February 26, 2024

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Mebane city mgr.: Mebane not quite as committed as portrayed to Burlington’s city council

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Mebane city manager Chris Rollins says staff from his city has, indeed, been in discussions about potential Link Transit service in the city, as well as with Orange County about providing additional bus service in the city.

However, in an interview with The Alamance News, Rollins insists that the city council has not yet been involved in the discussions, and that no decision has been made about Mebane’s potential participation in the Link Transit bus system begun by Burlington a decade ago.  He also admitted that it unclear whether the staff will, in fact, recommend such participation.

Mebane city manager Chris Rollins

See story on Burlington’s description of Mebane’s readiness to join Link Transit bus system: https://alamancenews.com/burlington-says-mebane-is-ready-to-join-link-transit/


He did acknowledge that the likelihood of Mebane’s interest is increased by the considerably lower price tag for participation than what was first broached when Burlington was cobbling together support for starting a bus service.

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Ten years ago, at the time Burlington was looking for municipal partners for its bus service, Burlington initially put Mebane’s share’s outline of expense $88,000, but increased it to $208,320 as Graham, Haw River, and Elon ultimately passed on joining the system.

Mebane’s city council turned down participation in October 2014, when the price tag stood at $135,820.

Rollins predicted his council would still be reluctant to participate if the costs was to remain at any of those previous levels.  But he said the costs being discussed at the staff level are more in the $15,000 to $20,000 range for Mebane’s share in the Link Transit system.

“At that kind of money, we’d be interested,” he suggested.

He also said that there is now a “different approach from 10 years ago,” speculating that the council might have more interest, especially at the lower range in costs being discussed.

As to whether the staff is getting out ahead of the council in even discussing Link Transit participation, Rollins said staff discussion on topics not guided by city council action “happens all the time.”

As to the possibility that Orange County would expand its bus service in Mebane, Rollins also acknowledged staff discussions with Orange County.

In both cases, Rollins said it would be likely that the council wouldn’t take any action, or hear any staff reports on the issue, until the series of budget workshops that the city customarily handles in the spring, possibly starting in March.

The only mention at a city council meeting of public transportation in the past year was a two-minute presentation by development director Ashley Ownbey at the end of the council’s September 5, 2023 meeting, which drew two more minutes of praise for the idea from mayor Ed Hooks and councilman Sean Ewing.

Ownbey reported, “Expansion of transit services would better connect Mebane to neighbors to the east and west and provide more transportation options for Mebane residents traveling locally and regionally.  The purpose of this informational item,” on the agenda, she noted at the time, “is to alert the Mebane city council and the public of potential public engagement processes in the near future.”

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