Albertville wants more details on proposed transit joint powers

The Albertville City Council discussed a proposed Joint Powers agreement with neighboring cities that would negotiate for continued transit, in light of River Rider’s service ending July 1.

Wright County has reached a negotiations impasse with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s favored transit provider for the county, Trail Blazer of Glencoe. With the present provider, River Rider, ending service July 1, that means cities must form a joint powers to negotiate on their own with Trail Blazer.

MnDOT subsidizes 85 percent of the transit costs, and city administrator Adam Nafstad made clear that the joint powers would negotiate with MnDOT’s preferred transit provider, Trail Blazer.

“Trailblazer is the likely and potentially only qualified transit provider,” Nafstad said. “The consortium of Wright County cities would put together joint powers to partner with Trailblazer to provide uninterrupted transit service after River Rider ends July 1.”

Mayor Jillian Hendrickson and councilors Dan Wagner, Rob Olson, Larry Sorensen and John Vetsch had several questions regarding the timing of Joint Powers since it is needed immediately in wake of the July 1 deadline. Nafstad shared a letter from MnDOT encouraging the cities to formulate the joint powers and work with Trail Blazer.

He said MnDOT is providing 18 months of financing for the Trailblazer coalition, as an incentive to negotiate a contract. Funding would be paid back over a five-year period of time.

Wright County Board member Mike Potter was present and explained that the county would be discussing the matter and looking for other transit options.

Nafstad expressed the gravity of timing: “All cities mutually agree that the county board is the preferred and most appropriate institution for transit services, but we’re at a point where we don’t believe it’s possible at this time. Trailblazer said it would not continue to negotiate with the county board, and MnDOT is not open to extending River Rider. Any other option would have to go through procurement process, and wouldn’t allow for transit come July 1.”

Nafstad also said Guardian Angels senior housing provider that is building a new project in Albertville, “conveyed their great desire to have a transit provider in this area. It improves their ability to finance projects and secure money for their facilities, and gives mobility options. Likewise, the Crow River Senior Center spoke out very much in favor for transit.”

Nafstad concluded that an agreement is necessary to have service in 2015.

The council directed staff to continue working on joint powers, coordinate legal details and come back with more details on what associated costs might be. It asked staff to continue on with joint powers as well as monitor what is going on with the county in case there still is an option.

“A lot of parties are at stake,” Nafstad said.