County approves phased-in plan to take over WCAT

For the last several years, Wright County’s involvement in a regional transit organization has changed several times. The long-running River Rider program was phased out when Sherburne County unexpectedly bolted to join another regional transit group. Wright County reluctantly joined in with the Trailblazer Transit system, but opted out of the joint powers agreement due to disagreements on the county’s representation on the Trailblazer board and input in making critical decisions. For the last three years, Wright County cities have partnered with Trailblazer through the organization WCAT (Wright County Area Transportation).
At the Oct. 24 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, the board approved a significant cash outlay and starting the process of the county taking back the control of transit in Wright County.
Commissioner Darek Vetsch presented the Oct. 19 committee of the whole meeting – a very quick turnaround for committee minutes to get on a board agenda – stating that he and Commissioner Mike Potter had negotiated a tentative agreement with WCAT for the county to phase in a five-year takeover of the county’s interests in the program – starting with a 50 percent cost split of local expenses in 2018 to 60 percent in 2019, 70 percent in 2020, 80 percent in 2021, 90 percent in 2022 and taking full control of the operation in 2023.
“This is something that we’ve been working on for some time,” Vetsch said. “We’ve had a lot of meetings over this and the fact of the matter is that every other transit system in the state is run by counties, not cities. The cities have taken on the burden of operating a system in Wright County, but it has been overwhelming. We have the staff and resources to run the program and we should run it.”

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