Trailblazer seeking state funds to consolidate operations

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Trailblazer Transit’s Joint Powers Board, Thursday, by a 4-1 vote, formally requested $800,000 in state funding to build a dispatch center and bus garage in Hutchinson.

By building a combined dispatch center and garage in Hutchinson, Trailblazer Transit will be able to consolidate its operations in McLeod County. Presently Trailblazer has a bus garage and the dispatch center in two different locations in Hutchinson, and another bus garage in Glencoe.

Trailblazer Transit had previously requested $800,000 in federal funding for the facility. However, the Minnesota State Legislature set aside $2 million for rural Minnesota Transit projects and Trailblazer has notified the Minnesota Department of Transportation that it is interested in applying for this funding, Gary Ludwig, Trailblazer Transit director, explained. Applying for the state funds doesn’t exclude Trailblazer Transit from the federal process, he said, but the state funding would be available immediately while the federal funding could take three to five years.

Even if the state or federal funding is provided for the new Hutchinson facility, Trailblazer’s Joint Powers Board, in April, reaffirmed its position to maintain two dispatch centers and bus garages, one in Gaylord and one in Gaylord.

McLeod County Commissioner Melvin Dose cast the lone dissenting vote on seeking the state funds. He supports having one dispatch center and garage centrally located in Glencoe.

It is proposed to build the new dispatch center and bus garage in Hutchinson on land that is owned by McLeod County, next to the McLeod County Fairgrounds and sky diving business on the south part of Hutchinson. In order to receive the grant, a proposed site must be identified.

A 20% match is required for the federal grant, which would mean that $160,000 would have to be contributed between McLeod and Sibley Counties. Sibley County Commissioner Leo Bauer, recorder for the Joint Powers Board, said that he would like a stipulation in an agreement that Sibley County could be reimbursed any funds placed into the new facility if the two-county transit system should split.

McLeod County Commissioner Sheldon Nies, who is vice chairperson of the Joint Powers Board, said that he has heard that the federal government will accept the appraised value of the property as part of the local match.

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