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6:03 AM Sat, Oct. 20th

CYMPO aims for cohesive approach to public transit

PRESCOTT - With each of the area governments recommending a slightly different approach to public transit, the Central Yavapai Metropolitan Planning Organization now must work to blend the various suggestions.

That process came up briefly at CYMPO's Wednesday night meeting, when Administrator Jodi Rooney noted that she had just received the City of Prescott's recommendation to pursue a fixed-route bus system that would link Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley.

The city's proposal was the last of the five that CYMPO, the overseeing body for the recently completed Regional Transit Needs Study, earlier had requested from the involved governments, also including Yavapai County and Dewey-Humboldt.

Rooney pointed out that she would be compiling the five governments' recommendations - all of which are different - and forwarding them to the board members in coming weeks. The CYMPO board discussion of the recommendations then would take place on Sept. 19.

Meanwhile, Rooney suggested that CYMPO's transit working group, including staff members from the various governments, get together to discuss how to combine the recommendations into one cohesive transit approach.

That prompted John Silvernale, representing the Prescott Transit Authority's privately operated Citibus, to urge the board to include his family's company in those discussions. CYMPO Board Chair Karen Fann agreed, and Rooney said she would notify the Silvernales about upcoming working group meetings.

On Thursday, Steve Silvernale of the Prescott Transit Authority agreed that his family would like to be involved in any future transit program.

Noting that Prescott Transit Authority has years of experience and already has a system in operation, with dozens of employees, Silvernale said, "It is our desire to provide the (transit) service regionally. We have every intention of doing that, if given the opportunity."

And from his discussions with local officials, Silvernale said he believes that "all of the councils are leaning toward privatization."

This week's CYMPO agenda did not include a general discussion of public transit, so board members did not broach the details of the operation of a future system.

And, while Doris Piatak, a member of the Northern Arizona Interfaith Council, tried to bring up an issue of "conflict of interest" over the Silvernale's inclusion in the process, Fann declined, noting that the matter was not on Wednesday's agenda.

On Thursday, Piatak said her concerns stemmed from Steve Silvernale's comments at this week's Prescott City Council meeting, when, she said, he made it clear that he intends to be an applicant in any future contracting for a regional transit system.

"It seems to be a conflict of interest for (the Silvernales) to help write the parameters," Piatak said. "I would like to see a little more objectivity."

On Thursday, Fann said that - after speaking with Piatak at the close of Wednesday's meeting - she determined that the Silvernales should be "a resource of information so the working group can make some informed decisions," rather than a part of the decision-making process.

Fann said she also extended that invitation to long-time transit advocate Lindsay Bell, who told the CYMPO board Wednesday night that she was a "volunteer staff person" in an ongoing effort to start a non-profit transit organization that also potentially could be a contractor for a future transit system.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com