CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District board voted itself out of business Tuesday night, opting to establish an endowment fund with the approximately $75,000 remaining in its bank account.
The board voted 5-0 to give the funds to the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois to provide transportation services for residents within the boundaries of the transit district in southwest Champaign.
It was a relatively sedate final meeting for a board that had been created more than seven years ago by voters who wanted to block expansion, including bus service and taxes, of the larger Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.
Edward Vaughan, the chairman of the Champaign Southwest MTD board for its entire existence, said he believed the smaller district had accomplished something, even though it never provided transit services.
"I think we made people very much aware of a lot of the wastefulness of the C-U MTD," Vaughan said after the board's final meeting. "We brought a lot of awareness to the fact that they run empty buses. They did then, they still do run empty buses where and when they want, whether they're needed or not.
"But at the same time, out here I'm seeing some of the buses are smaller buses. I'm seeing a lot smaller buses run out here. Did we accomplish something by doing that? You'd better believe it."
Vaughan said he didn't know if the cost to taxpayers in the Champaign Southwest MTD was worth it, "but I sure hope so. I'm one of those taxpayers too."
The Champaign Southwest MTD board members voted to give Vaughan the authority to execute the endowment agreement with the Community Foundation after a lengthy discussion of options for disbursing the money.
Among alternatives proposed were to give it to the Champaign Park District for facilities in the area, giving it directly to the C-U MTD to pay for bus passes and granting it to the United Way or a number of other social service agencies.
Writing 2,200 refund checks to residents of the district — some for meager amounts — was deemed wasteful and inefficient. Officials feared that many of the checks would be so small that they would never be cashed, and the transit district's account could never be closed.
Board members also authorized Vaughan to send a letter to the Champaign County Board — once all of the transit district's money has been distributed — requesting that the Champaign Southwest MTD be dissolved as a government agency.
Vaughan said he thought that process would be completed by the end of the year.
He said he believed Champaign-Urbana needs mass transit, "but it's needed where it should be, and not out here and it's not out here on the wealthy outskirts."
And he criticized the C-U MTD for not providing service 365 days a year, and for spending money on advertising.
"They're spending their money willy-nilly. How much do the ads that you keep hearing on the television and radio about how I gotta ride the bus, I gotta get there? Well I could get there a whole lot better if they ran more buses and didn't do so much advertising," he said.