At least one member of the Copperas Cove City Council is telling the Hill Country Transit District to raise its rates — or else.
Councilman Jay Manning questioned The HOP’s urban operations director, Darrell Burtner, about the rates charged by the transit district during Tuesday night’s regular meeting at the Copperas Cove Technology Center.
Burtner had come to give the council an update on The HOP’s current bus routes in Copperas Cove and to request that the council give his agency $100,000 set aside in the city budget for transit operations.
The city council agreed to that amount during budget meetings last year, more than doubling the amount given to Hill Country Transit. The council allocated $42,165 in 2017.
Despite the promised increase, the transit district eliminated all Saturday bus service and reduced the service hours for bus routes in Copperas Cove by one hour.
Burtner acknowledged the service cut in his presentation while trying to show that the bus routes are still very popular. He noted that route 65, which travels around the city, has made over 15,000 passenger trips so far this year. Route 100, which travels from the Walmart in Copperas Cove and travels east to Killen, has made over 7,000 passenger trips since the beginning of the year. He noted that 45% of those trips are by Copperas Cove residents.
Burtner added that both routes are averaging about 11 passengers per service hour, which is above the Federal Transit Administration goal of 10 passengers per service hour.
Councilman Manning said he thought the city had been generous in its contributions to The HOP. But Manning said he had a question that still hasn’t been answered by the agency.
“Have you changed your fee schedule yet?” Manning asked, to which Burtner said no.
Burtner said his agency is examining the effect that raising fares could have on ridership. While an increase could generate more money that could be used for operations, it might also decrease the number of riders. That could lead to reductions in federal funding needed to keep The HOP afloat.
“I don’t believe it’s fair to ask us to spend taxpayer money at..$4 a ride when the people that are using it are not participating,” Manning said. He added he would have a very negative opinion of any further requests by Hill Country Transit without some kind of a fare increase.
The council also held three public hearings. In one rezoning case, the owner of a home sought to change her property to single-family residential after closing a daycare center operating there. In the other rezoning case, a property owner was seeking to convert her property to local business district to match the surrounding properties in the area. Both requests were approved unanimously.
The council also unanimously denied a request for an amendment to a conditional use permit that would have allowed a convenience store to open at 504 S. 1st St. Several people testified against the request, saying it would lead to increased crime, traffic and noise in their neighborhood and might also decrease property values.
Property owner Amr Abdelazeem refuted the opposition point by point, saying their concerns were would be addressed by his plans.
Several members of the council seemed unconvinced by Abdelazeem’s arguments. Councilman Marc Payne questioned the space for handicapped parking in the plan, saying there was not enough room for passengers to exit on one side if a truck was parked in the loading zone beside it.
Mayor Pro-Tem Dan Yancey had several questions for Abdelazeem, asking why the building was never completed when it was first approved in 2013. He also asked why Abdelazeem seemed to be giving council plans that didn’t seem to match up with what the council was seeing on the chamber’s display screen.
In the end, the council tried to let the request to amend die by not proposing a motion to vote on it. The city attorney said the request needed a vote, so a motion to deny the request was put forward and approved unanimously by the council.
In other council action:
The council gave Interim City Manager Ryan Haverlah permission to negotiate a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity and fire service arrangement with the Kempner Water Supply Corporation for a property being developed at 2033 Farm-to-Market 2657. The process is expected to add nine to 12 months to the development of the property, which is being targeted for a convenience store.
Authorized a $25,000 payment to the National National Mounted Warfare Foundation to help build the National Mounted Warfare Museum. Clarence Enochs of the National Mounted Warrior Foundation said the group needs about $2.1 million to complete fundraising for phase one of the project.
Approved the final plat of the Ranches at Live Oak, Phase One subdivision along Lutheran Church Road.
Approved an ordinance updating the city’s Water Conservation and Drought Contingency Plan.
Heard an update on the 14 Forward Initiative from City Councilman Fred Chavez.
The council went into executive session to discuss the purchase, exchange, lease or value of a right of way along Business U.S. 190. They also planned to discuss their search for a new city manager. After more than an hour, the council returned to say there would be no action on either item and then adjourned.
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