MCTA proposes fare increase

Out-of-county trips could go from $15 to $20; Charlotte route may end

BAKERSVILLE – The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners at its regular meeting Tuesday, May 7, reviewed proposed fare increases for Mitchell County Transportation Authority and received a report from Mitchell County Schools Superintendent Chad Calhoun. 

MCTA Director Sheila Blalock presented the proposed increases to the commissioners, which were set by the transportation advisory board before and would be the first increases since July 2017. 

The fare for in-county trips and trips to neighboring counties would remain the same, but the out-of-county trip rate would increase from $15 to $20. Blalock said the small rate hike is necessary as a result of a decrease in $28,000 in grant funding for the next fiscal year. 

“The fare increase is to help us offset what we are losing in our grants,” Blalock said. 

Blalock also discussed the possibility of MCTA cutting its route to the Charlotte Douglas Airport. The Charlotte route, which previously cost riders $65 plus $10 for additional passengers, was costing MCTA money.

Blalock said the discussions about cutting the route are difficult, as some riders, including an elderly citizen in Spruce Pine, regularly rely on the route and have already voiced their displeasure with its potential elimination. 

“In talking with the public, we’ve caught some flak on it,” Blalock said. “It is a convenience, and it is a help for a lot of people.”

Blalock said the route to the Asheville Regional Airport is also popular, but MCTA doesn’t lose money on those trips. 

Board Chair Danny Burleson and vice chair Matthew “Vern” Grindstaff both implored Blalock to explore options that would allow MCTA to keep the Charlotte route – mainly raising the cost to a point where MCTA no longer loses money on the trip.

“I’d hate to see us do away with trips to Charlotte,” Grindstaff said. 

Burleson suggested raising the cost to $150, and Commissioner Jacob Willis suggested $175 plus $25 per additional rider. Burleson asked Blalock to poll her board about the proposed changes and report back before the commissioners vote on the final budget.

“That’s something for you all to think about,” he said. “Do your homework on it and work out a formula to where you don’t lose money.”

Calhoun offered an update about the county’s new school project. He passed out early design drawings for the commissioners to review and briefly explained the details of the building. 

Calhoun said many features of the design are the result of recommendations from the Board of Education as well as local teachers and principals. 

The project’s construction manager-at-risk should be selected soon, Calhoun added. Once the manager is selected, they will establish what can be done within the project budget. 

Commissioner Jeff Harding said he would like to see Calhoun come to the regular meeting of the commissioners each month to offer updates from the school system. Burleson agreed, and Calhoun said he would gladly do it, and if he has a scheduling conflict, he would likely send Board of Education Chair Brandon Pitman as his proxy.

The MItchell News

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