Cornwall backtracks on transit, voting to stay in T3 contract

Coun. Frizzell, McCourt warn there is no money to pay for it

Nigel Armstrong NArmstrong@TheGuardian.pe.ca
Published on June 18, 2014

Cornwall councillor Peter Meggs, left, enters council chambers for the June monthly meeting Wednesday, where transit was on the agenda. He shared a brief word with transit supporters at the meeting including, front row centre, Linda Bain and Teresa Miller. Miller lives in Bonshaw but gets rides into Cornwall to pick up transit to get into Charlottetown.

©THE GUARDIAN/Nigel Armstrong

Cornwall town council voted Wednesday to keep the town in the T3 transit contract, despite no money to pay for it, warned some councillors.

The vote came on a motion from Counsellor Marlene Hunt at the end of the June monthly meeting, calling on council to overturn its vote to pull out.

That decision was made at the December council meeting but the contract required six months notice, which meant the service was to stop the end of June.

Negotiations since then came up with nothing substantial, said Coun. Minerva McCourt, chairwoman of the finance and administration committee.

With a full house of council in attendance for this vote, Couns. McCourt and Corey Frizzell voted to keep pulling out of transit. Supporting the decision to stay were Couns. Irene Dawson, Parker Beer, the motion presenter Marlene Hunt and its seconder, Peter Meggs.

In December, Couns. Dawson and Beer had voted to end the transit contract, but changed for this vote.

Not a flip-flop, said Dawson.

"It is an educated decision I have made based on fact, not on fiction or fancy," she said.

"I don't think it's quite right to make a determination now with only four months left in our mandate and a new council coming in," she said.

Dawson said other transit formats are likely available, but that Cornwall can't be in the business of negotiating side or alternate deals without cooperating with T3 partners Stratford and Charlottetown.

Coun. Corey Frizzell warned the council that other town business, including low fine revenues and high legal fees are going to put the town behind budget.

"Extending transit another six months will add another $40,000, plus/minus, to the town's expenditures," said Frizzell.

That could all combine to put the town $90,000 over budget at the end of the fiscal year, he said.

"I think driving empty buses around is not a sustainable method of public transportation," he said.

Frizzell said alternatives might be a car-sharing system, or a taxi-sharing model, or a transit system using vans.

McCourt said that given the annual transit fee, combined with a bus replacement cost, then divided by the number of residents who actually take the bus, the town subsides each transit user by over $2,000.

Some 13 members of the public quietly watched proceedings, clapping when the vote came in support of transit.

Resident Nancy Riley said after the meeting that much work remains in the fight to keep transit in Cornwall.

"We have time to look into more options," she said. "The council was not willing to start a sub-committee that would look at other avenues to keep transit going."

The committee idea was suggested to council earlier this year, said Riley.

"Maybe this is what we are going to have start, our own sub-committee and put some ideas down on paper and get ready for the election."

Municipal elections on P.E.I. are scheduled for November 3 this year.

NArmstrong@TheGuardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/NigelPEI