CHAMPAIGN — Members of the Champaign Southwest Mass Transit District board may survey the approximately 2,200 residents of the district about whether they want it to continue to exist as a way of blocking expansion of the larger Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District.
A decision on whether to carry out the poll, which likely would be done by mail, was put off until the Champaign Southwest board's next meeting at 7 p.m. June 19, at the Windsor Road Christian Church, 2501 W. Windsor Road, C.
The board also tabled action on a resolution authorizing the C-U MTD to serve two facilities that are in the Champaign Southwest district but not in the larger mass transit district.
The sudden burst of activity by the Champaign Southwest MTD board — which has never provided bus service in its six-year history — was prompted by requests for service last month by the new Champaign County YMCA and the Windsor West apartment complex, both of which are about 1,000 feet south of Windsor Road and that far outside the C-U MTD boundaries.
"There are two of us here who are pretty certain that our constituents don't want this (bus) service," said new Champaign Southwest board member Jack Dempsey. "The people who are in the overlap area (in both the Champaign Southwest and the C-U MTD) who are getting a service they don't want and paying twice, how do we decide if those people care? And if they do care, what do they want us to do? Because that's what we're here to do."
Dempsey said the poll question needs to be asked "in a clear way so people understand what it is they're getting and what do they want to do."
"What I'd like to do is ask the people who we're here to serve," he said. "We'd have to make a little card with this (wording) on it, check yes or check no, and mail it out to everybody and hope that half of them send it back. And then we decide."
Board member Dave Short, who last month suggested that it was time to dissolve the smaller district, said Tuesday that the original intention of its organizers was to block expansion of the C-U MTD.
"All five of the members on this board, as well as the people who elected us to this board, their desire was to block the C-U MTD. They had no intention of ever starting an MTD system of their own," said Short. "The only thing they were trying to prevent was no MTD tax."
The Champaign Southwest MTD has a property tax rate of 1.83 cents per $100 of assessed valuation while the C-U MTD's rate is 28.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. About 25 percent of the residents of the Champaign Southwest's district pay only to the smaller MTD, while about 75 percent pay to both districts.
But once the Illinois Supreme Court decided last year that the two districts could coexist, Short said, "it defeated our original purpose."
Board members Steve Holland argued that blocking the larger MTD is still a worthwhile endeavor.
"There is a political value in standing in the way of an arrogant, greedy bureaucracy for as long as you can," Holland said.
The resolution to allow the larger MTD to serve the two facilities outside its taxing district was tabled after a short debate. It stated in part, "Not only is such transit authorized, but in the interest of the overall Champaign-Urbana community welfare, frequent and regular operations on a seven day per week basis is strongly encouraged."
Last month the C-U MTD board said it would be willing to provide service to the YMCA and apartment complex only if the Champaign Southwest MTD agreed to disband.
Also Tuesday night, the Champaign Southwest board approved a resolution thanking original board member Ann Parkhill Suchoff for her years of service. She was replaced by Dempsey at last month's meeting.