CHAMPAIGN — Board members of an upstart mass transit system established in 2006 but yet to provide any service will meet Monday night to chart their future.
The Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the Windsor Road Christian Church, 2501 W. Windsor Road, C. Among the items on their agenda are budget and tax levy ordinances for 2012, discussions with the larger Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District and a possible advisory referendum in March.
"We're still questioning our very existence right now. We've got decisions to make about whether we are to continue on," said Edward Vaughan Jr., chair of the Champaign Southwest board.
Earlier this year the Illinois Supreme Court refused to get involved in the six-year-long spat between the two transit districts, essentially saying they could co-exist and even double-tax those who live within both districts. The Champaign Southwest district was established by voter in March 2006 as a way of blocking the larger MTD's growth into southwest Champaign and rural areas beyond.
Officials from both transit districts met privately last month, a session that Vaughan described as "very cordial."
"We're not at war with each other," he said. "We never have been at war."
One of the options the group discussed, according to both Vaughan and C-U MTD director Bill Volk, was to have the smaller system contract for service from the larger operation.
"The way I see it, three things can happen," Vaughan said. "One, we can dissolve and go and have the county wipe us out. Two, we can continue to exist and run no buses and continue to charge taxpayers, and we'll get a revolution because of the double taxation of a lot of people.
"Three, we can negotiate with the (C-U) MTD if people want some sort of bus service into those areas that are not joint areas, or areas where they would not otherwise go into our district. In other words, if we want to run an extra bus and they don't want to run it, we might contract with them."
Volk said the C-U MTD board is waiting to hear exactly what the smaller district wants.
"The consensus at our last board meeting was that we really can't respond to them because at this point we don't have a specific proposal," he said. "We would really need to know what they're talking about. When do they want service? What type of service do they want? When would they want to start? There are vehicle considerations for us.
"I think the ball is in their court on what they want to do."
Vaughan said the Champaign Southwest board might go to its constituents next spring to get some guidance.
"We are talking about possibly having a referendum to see what our taxpayers want in the way of bus transportation," he said. "Either no buses or more buses."
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said that the Champaign Southwest board would have until Jan. 3 to approve a resolution requesting an advisory referendum on the March 20 primary election ballot.