STANTON — Montcalm County voters may have recently been taken on a $10,000 ride.
Voters overwhelmingly said “no” on Nov. 8 to a proposed countywide public transportation system millage, dubbed the Montcalm Ride. The request for a new 0.3-mill property tax was shot down 2,842 votes to 1,611 votes, or about 61 to 39 percent.
The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners deadlocked 4-4 on Monday on whether to let the Montcalm County Transportation Authority bring the proposal back for another vote next November.
A tie vote means the motion failed.
District 6 Commissioner Ron Baker, District 4 Commissioner John Johansen, District 9 Commissioner Betty Kellenberger and District 1 Commissioner Lloyd Walker voted “yes,” while District 8 Commissioner Roger Caris, District 7 Commissioner Patrick Q. Carr, District 2 Commissioner Tom Lindeman and District 3 Commissioner Ron Retzloff voted “no.”
District 5 Commissioner Carl Paepke was absent from the meeting due to medical reasons.
Transportation Authority Chairman Franz Mogdis wanted to bring the millage proposal back to voters, hoping a higher turnout during the Nov. 6, 2012, presidential election would change the results. He told commissioners the millage fared better in precincts with the highest turnout last month while precincts with the lowest turnout nixed it.
However, Montcalm County Clerk Kristen Millard said the Transportation Authority still owes the county $6,000 from the last vote — including $3,100 for ballots and $2,800 for programming the question on the ballots.
That doesn’t include the money the Transportation Authority owes to all the townships in Montcalm County for each township’s cost of the election. Millard estimates that cost about $200 per precinct, or another $4,000.
The brings the Transportation Authority’s amount due to about $10,000.
Mogdis told commissioners he doesn’t know if the Transportation Authority will be able to pay the amount owed, but he continued to seek another vote.
“It went down badly in township areas where the voter turnout was less than 10 percent, some turnouts were only 5 or 6 percent,” Mogdis said. “We believe that (a November 2012 vote) will provide the greatest number of voters the opportunity to make a decision as to whether public transportation is needed or not needed in the county.”
Johansen said he didn’t think the Transportation Authority put together a concise plan in time for the recent vote. He asked Mogdis whether the Transportation Authority has a new plan and whether they have an agreement with the city of Greenville, which has its own transportation system.
“We do not have an agreement with Greenville,” Mogdis said. “We do have a plan, which was not communicated as effectively as it could have been.”
Lindeman cited a recent Mid-Michigan District Health Department survey, which listed Montcalm County residents as being most concerned about job availability and least concerned about transportation (which ranked No. 10 on the bottom of the list).
“The people and the community don’t see a transportation issue,” Lindeman said. “When I went door to door (before the last transportation vote), people said no, no, no. I talked to businesses and businesses didn’t see the need for transportation. I think if we go for a second vote, we are setting ourselves up for a major blow. The public is ticked off and they are angry.”
Mogdis continued to protest that Montcalm County needs public transportation, but Carr cut him off.
“There’s only so many times we really want to go to the well and we made that clear,” Carr said. “It was going to be one time and paid for.”
The Transportation Authority’s bylaws state it must be disbanded on Dec. 31 because the millage was not passed. Commissioners also declined Mogdis’ request to continue the authority for another year, so it will cease to be an official county organization on that date.