The Wright County Board of Commissioners is attempting to work with another local service to replace the outgoing River Rider Transit service, which had been providing transportation for seniors around Wright County for the past several years.
While the process is ongoing, Commissioner Mark Daleiden said the best option is to team with two other local counties – Sibley and McLeod – to help fund the TrailBlazers Transit system, which provides buses for organized routes and other vehicles for scheduled pick-up.
“The main difference will be that TrailBlazers will cost taxpayers some dollars, whereas River Rider was self-sustaining. It didn’t cost the county anything,” Daleiden said. “The fact is, River Rider is gone. Without Sherburne County and without the support from MnDOT, it simply can continue. So we’re forced to find another alternative.”
Daleiden believes that can be TrailBlazers, a service that’s operated out of Glencoe. But the firm got off on the wrong foot with Wright County last week at the commission’s regular meeting, when it attempted to fast-track a new, negotiated agreement. It set a target date of April 9.
Wright County began negotiations with TrailBlazers back at the end of March.
“[It’s] premature to make this decision now,” said Commissioner Pat Sawatzke of Monticello, according to an article in the Monticello Times. “I think we can agree to move forward in negotiations, but I don’t think we’re in a position to agree on this menu of proposals.”
Sawatzke and Commissioner Charles Borrell balked at the price tag, too. Wright County would become the biggest player in funding TrailBlazers, which received $160,000 and $320,000 from Sibley and McLeod, respectively, last year.
Daleiden, who owns St. Michael Auto Center, said the county’s D-Day is July 1, when River Rider will go offline after a series of gaffes, miscommunications and, ultimately, disenfranchisement.
“I can say with all certainty that our goal is to have transportation continue, uninterrupted, for the seniors in this area that need it,” he said. “What that will look like, we’re not sure yet. The TrailBlazers option looks to be the best. We just need an agreement that’s best for the people that will use it and the best for people in Wright County.”
Ultimately, the board is leaning toward a short-term agreement with TrailBlazers to continue bus service, while a long-term negotiation is yet to be determined.
Daleiden, at the last meeting of the commission, proposed Sawatzke and Albertville representative Commissioner Mike Potter lead the charge for the county.