Despite delays, bus system still in gear

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DOVER — Despite delays, work to establish a bus system between Dover, Sandpoint, Ponderay and Kootenai is still in gear.

It could also potentially assist those impacted by the recent cancellation of North Idaho Community Express’ rural services. Once Dover acquires its first bus from the manufacturer, it could be used to restore some of NICE’s lost services, according to Dover Mayor Randy Curless.

“The possibility we’re looking at now is for Dover to pick up some of those services,”  Curless said. “But right now, it’s too early to tell what services we could provide, if any.”

But first, Dover will need to acquire a bus in the first place. According to Curless, a delinquent provider is responsible for the delay in city-centered operations. The manufacturer, located on the East Coast, is having difficult finding a chassis to use for the vehicle’s construction.

“We’re pretty pleased with where we’re at, except we’re short a bus,” Curless said. “It seems like they could have done more to fill the bid on time.”

Dover officials had already purchased a bus with their grant funding, but when the project expanded to Sandpoint, Ponderay and Kootenai, they sold the vehicle to secure a larger one. Oddly enough, NICE was the bus purchaser.

Otherwise, the goal to establish a bus route between the four cities is making good progress, Curless said. A committee with representatives from all four communities meets regularly, finalizing routes and other details. The city has also hired a bus system manager with 15 years of experience in the field. Curless anticipates that a system will be in place to begin operations by the time the first bus arrives — hopefully mid-January. Grant funding for a second bus will also be in place by April.

“It seems like the time is really right to put this system into place,” Curless said. “With the current economic times, it’s more needed than ever.”

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