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Mower County could turn bus system over to the state

Published 9:33am Wednesday, August 14, 2013

AUSTIN — Mower County and Austin have an opportunity to turn its public transportation system over to someone else.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners and the Austin City Council are slated to meet next week to discuss whether to dissolve Austin-Mower County Area Transit to turn operations over to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, in order for another entity to take it over.

MnDOT officials pushed Mower, Steele and Freeborn counties to merge public transportation services earlier this year as a way to save money, but state officials came forward with another solution several weeks ago: Have a quasi-public entity, like nonprofit Cedar Valley Services, which runs Albert Lea Transit throughout Freeborn County, take over transportation duties for all three counties.

Since AMCAT isn’t funded using local tax dollars — the state funds about 85 percent of AMCAT, with the rest paid for through rider fees — the county and city wouldn’t lose out on funding, but both entities would reduce their workloads. County and city officials would sell off buses and AMCAT property to whoever takes over services. AMCAT routes would not be affected by a potential turnover, according to Mower County Coordinator Craig Oscarson.