Posted on 09 May 2012 by Keith Lacey
Members of Town of Osoyoos council want their sparkling new community bus to be used as often as possible, but they’re not willing to rent it out as a “commercial entity” to try and make money.
At council’s committee of the whole meeting Monday, councillors were strongly in favour of allowing community and non-profit organizations to use the bus, but did not like the idea of leasing out the bus simply to make a profit.
“I’m conflicted on this one … because there’s an overwhelming lack of support with us (town) competing in private business … even if it’s in a remote way,’ said Coun. C.J. Rhodes. “This bus was never intended to be an investment to have a return on. That was not the intention.
“I can’t support competing with private business.”
Councillors agreed unanimously several weeks ago to have staff come up with a new policy relating to the community bus, which was purchased with federal gas tax money to the tune of roughly $90,000 last year, to ensure it would be used as often as possible.
The local daycare centre and a couple of other community organizations have used it for day trips, but the bus often sits idle and councillors want to change that.
Gerald Davis, the director of community services for the town, said the staff recommendation about possibly renting out the bus was simply made to accomodate council’s wish to maximize usage.
A complete definition would have to be included in the final policy indicating what a commercial business is and what a non-profit/community group is defined as.
“We run this service, not to make money, but to try and break even,” said Davis. “We wouldn’t want to come back to council at budget time and say we’re $5,000 short on the bus.”
Council appeared strongly in favour of allowing some advertising on the bus to generate revenue to pay for maintenance and repairs. The staff suggestion of selling eight advertising areas at between $200 and $400 per year would help offset the costs of maintaining the bus, said Davis.
Coun. Mike Plante, who owns a wine touring company in Osoyoos, said while he would never consider the town leasing out the bus to users as direct competition, said his bottom line is “this bus needs to be used and that’s all that matters to me.”
Mayor Stu Well said he agreed with Rhodes’ objection to leasing the bus out simply to make money as a commercial venture and suggested the new policy make it clear the town won’t be doing that now or in the future.
“I think we should get rid of the commercial component,” he said.
Davis said he met with members of Community Action for Seniors Independence (CASI), who own and operate their own bus, and said their biggest concern was with the advertising component as it generates significant revenue for the local seniors organization.
When he informed them about the limited scope of the advertising on the town bus, CASI administration appeared satisfied, said Davis.
To make sure the bus is available as a suitable form of transportation for the majority of current users, it’s crucial to keep costs at an affordable rate, so staff has suggested a rate of $25 per day for in-town use for local non-profits and community groups, like the local daycare and Elks Lodge, said Davis.
In the event the bus would be travelling out of town, consideration should be given for an additional charge based on mileage, he said.
All community organizations and non-profits considering using the bus would have to provide their own drivers, with those drivers having to bring proof of possessing a Class 4 license and driver’s abstract two weeks before renting the bus, he said.
All users of the bus must refuel it before dropping if off. Council is expected to approve a formal policy regarding the community bus in the next few weeks. Community organizations like Market on Main that are interested in picking up regular clients for its Saturday markets all summer would qualify as this is a community organization.