NC: City on the Way to Transit

July 15--With a slew of charts, graphics and timelines in hand, Burlington city leaders continued their long journey toward public transportation.

During Monday's work session meeting, the first meeting since approving a public transit system in June, the Burlington City Council agreed upon an advisory commission of representatives from participating municipalities as the public transit governing body. The council asked City Manager Harold Owen and the city staff to bring it options on what that type of governing body might look like and how it could be established. The Burlington City Council, as the lead agency, ultimately would have the final say on busing matters, and other stakeholders could be added to the board at a later point, Owen said.

"This wouldn't be a decisions-making board," City Council member Jim Butler said. "It is sorta like the Recreation (and Parks) Board and all the other boards (which make recommendations)."

According to a preliminary timeline presented during the work session, the governing body would begin meeting in early 2015 with the council making a majority of the decisions in the meantime. Under that timeline, buses would be ordered next July with transit services estimated to begin in fall 2016.

With the city of Mebane and town of Elon still undecided on whether to participate, city officials asked Owen to formally approach the municipalities again.

"We need to move forward and get going," Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall said. "We don't have time to wait on Mebane. We've had dialogue, asked questions, (and) now is the time to proceed and move forward."

The city of Graham and the town of Haw River have opted out of participating in the system, while Gibsonville has expressed its support.

Based on population, if Mebane, Gibsonville and Burlington were participating in the system, a five-member governing body could consist of three Burlington members and a member from Mebane and Gibsonville each.

Some of the other pressing items the city must tackle are determining the public transit service area, and whether the route will go to the courthouse and local community college, and submitting the grant application to receive federal and state funding, which should cover 90 percent of the startup costs and 50 percent of the operating costs.

BURLINGTON RECREATION and Parks Director Tony Laws also gave an update on what the council could expect to see in the future with regard to park projects and the department's future needs.

Go Ape is an outdoor adventure company that has contacted Burlington about establishing a possible site. The company would pay for installation of various ropes, zip lines and obstacles if the city provides the land. Then, the two entities would share in the revenue. Laws said the company has made one site visit and is expected to make a second visit in the near future.

The city's disc golf course at Springwood Park has been successful in the past nine months, with one tournament completed and more in the future. Laws also discussed the proposed nature center at the Glencoe Mill Village, including the types of activities and what kinds of renovations have been completed at the facility.

THE COUNCIL ALSO discussed participating in the Mayor's Maker Challenge, a national call to action to "bolster Making in their communities."

The Maker Movement, according to Burlington PIO Rachel Kelly, is strong in Burlington and growing as a technology-based extension of DIY culture.

To participate in the challenge, the city has to do at least one of 10 things, which range from creating a Maker roundtable and establishing a Maker liaison to updating economic and businesses development programs and incentives for Makers. City leaders said they would be interested in establishing a Maker liaison.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. today at the Burlington Municipal Building for its regularly scheduled meeting.

Copyright 2014 - Times-News, Burlington, N.C.

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