CHAMPAIGN — Members of the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District board may be ready to disband the 6-year-old transit district that was formed to block expansion by the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.
Board member David Short of Champaign said Wednesday, "My position is we fought the fight, we didn't accomplish what we set out to accomplish so it's time to take down the tent and go home."
He said he believes at least two others on the five-member board would agree that the Champaign Southwest MTD should be dissolved. Champaign Southwest MTD board Chairman Edward Vaughan could not be reached for comment. Another board member, Michael Sutter, declined to comment.
"I think that before the transition at the April meeting, there were at least three who were thinking, 'Let's be reasonable and see things for what they are,'" Short said. The transition that occurred at last week's Champaign Southwest MTD meeting was the replacement of original board member Ann Parkhill Suchoff with Jack Dempsey.
Dempsey said Wednesday that he doesn't have a position on dissolving the Champaign Southwest district and hoped to poll his neighbors in the Ironwood subdivision on the issue.
Only one board member, Short said, is insistent on maintaining the transit district that covers an area west of Interstate 57 but has no employees and has never offered service.
"I think what the board is doing is, they're going through the procedure to prove to that one person who is adamant about continuing that we can't afford it," Short said. He later identified board member Steve Holland as the most insistent on maintaining the Champaign Southwest district.
Meanwhile, members of the C-U MTD board said Wednesday that they would be willing to provide service to the new Champaign County YMCA and the Windsor West apartment complex once the Champaign Southwest MTD moved to disband.
Representatives of the YMCA and the 316-unit apartment complex south of Windsor Road last week told the smaller transit board that they wanted regular bus service to their facilities. The problem is that both properties are in the Champaign Southwest MTD and are just outside the larger MTD district.
Members of the C-U MTD board asked their staff to prepare a resolution, to be voted on at the May board meeting, that would set out those conditions to the board of the smaller transit board.
"I believe the solution to this problem would be: a) for the Champaign Southwest transit district to disband and b) for the Windsor West apartments and the YMCA then to take the steps to voluntarily annex to our district," said Don Uchtmann of Urbana, a member of the C-U MTD board. "With regard to the needs of the Y and Windsor West, I believe the district staff could prepare a plan and institute service as early as the fall of 2012."
He said he didn't believe the C-U MTD should increase its currently annual contracted service to the apartment complex or extend it to the currently unserved YMCA "until the Champaign Southwest district indicates that it intends to dissolve. This can be done quickly and merely by its board adopting a resolution."
Three other C-U MTD board members — a majority of the seven-member board — voiced support for Uchtmann's proposal.
"If I remember right," said Linda Bauer, another board member from Urbana, "the southwest mass transit district was formed to protest the C-U MTD. They didn't want us in their area and again, I got this secondhand, but the people were saying we don't need a bus service. Well, we're hearing something else now. I agree now that they need a bus service and their bus district should provide it if they can. Maybe the citizens there need to reconsider whether they want a bus service after all."
Board member Willard Broom of Urbana said that adding service "one parcel at a time to our district is to me maybe the most inefficient, big government move we could make."
And board Chairman Ron Peters of Champaign said "even if they just have a resolution at their meeting to dissolve, we'll take that as a good faith indication."
No one from the Champaign Southwest board was at the C-U MTD board meeting Wednesday, and neither Peters nor Bill Volk, the longtime director of the C-U MTD, said they had spoken with a representative of the smaller transit district about the issue.