Whitewater City Council votes in favor of funding Innovation Express in 2014

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Andrea Anderson
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The city of Whitewater will not be pulling the plug on funding for the Janesville-Milton-Whitewater Innovation Express bus service.

The Whitewater City Council voted 4-2 to include $12,000 of funding for the bus service in its finalized 2014 city budget Tuesday.

However, the frequency of future bus services remains unclear.

A representative from Generac Power Systems in Whitewater, one of the founding sponsors of the bus service, told the council Generac will provide $18,000 in funding for 2014. That's about $30,000 short of the $48,000 the Janesville Transit System requested of Generac.

Whitewater was asked to provide $18,000.

The estimated cost of operation for 2014 is about $395,000. Last year, the service cost about $360,000.

Milton, another sponsor, is providing $27,000. Riders' fares and federal and state aid make up the rest.

Before the vote, Tim Hearden, vice president of operations for Generac, urged the council to consider funding the project. He said it was too soon to cease funding when the program is “heading in the right direction.”

Members of the council repeatedly asked Hearden and Janesville representatives in attendance why the city of Whitewater should fund the service when only a fraction of its residents use it and the primary user, Generac, is paying just above a third of the amount requested.

In addition to the 2014 funding, Generac will provide financial support to cover operational costs in the future, Hearden said.

With Generac and Whitewater funding less than the requested amount, Janesville Transit System representatives will have to find a way to make up the difference—about $42,000 if UW-Whitewater decides to continue matching the city of Whitewater's commitment.

All sponsors will need to have a meeting to discuss funding possibilities or cuts in service, said Dave Mumma, Janesville Transit System director, after an hour-long discussion on the matter Tuesday.

“We certainly appreciate the support we got from the city council tonight,” Mumma said.

Cutting services during summer is an option, but that would cut only a fraction of the cost, Mumma said.

Janesville understands the budgetary constrictions, said Jennifer Petruzzello, neighborhood services director for Janesville. Though with the funding being given at this point, “it won't be the service we have today,” Petruzzello said.

Patrick Singer, Whitewater City Council president, and Alderwoman Stephanie Abbott voted against the funding because of the city's low ridership and the belief there are more economically viable options for bringing employees to and from Generac.

“I'm not going to support this,” Abbott said. “It's like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound."

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