County OKs change to free bus rides for residents

By: Jael Pembrick - Staff writer

LAURINBURG — Bus riders rejoice! Free bus tickets will soon come to Scotland County after the Commissioners board voted to get rid of the one dollar fee Tuesday night.

County Transportation Director Roylan Hammond spoke with the County Board of Commissioners about lifting the fee because Scotland County Area Transit System receives funding from the N.C.Department of Transportation Public Transportation Division. That funding covers all the operation bills.

The removal of the fee also solves the concern SCATS had when riders paid the fee and switchedfrom one bus route to another. Hammond presented three options to the board — buying new equipment that prints non duplicate tickets; charging a $1 fee for every ride; and eliminating the fee altogether — and he told the commissioners he preferred the latter option.

“I would be happy to do away with the fee because many low-income people ride. It would mean more money in their pocket,” Commissioner Betty Blue Gholston approved.

Hammond stated it would help the office staff focus on other tasks because it would cut out the liability of keeping track of and moving the money.

The removal of the fee also solves the concern SCATS had when riders paid the fee and switchedfrom one bus route to another. Hammond presented three options to the board — buying new equipment that prints non duplicate tickets; charging a $1 fee for every ride; and eliminating the fee altogether — and he told the commissioners he preferred the latter option.

“I would be happy to do away with the fee because many low-income people ride,” Commissioner Betty Blue Gholston said. “It would mean more money in their pocket.”

“The rider would get a better deal,” said Hammond, who added that the service carries between 800 and 1,000 each month.

Hammond also presented new policies to the board that make sure services are fair for anyone who chooses SCATS as their transportation.

Later in the meeting, the board wrestled witha rezoning request for building a concrete plant along Andrew Jackson Hwy./ U.S. 74 in Laurel Hill.

“There is no one here to representing the owner (of the plant),” said Commissioner Clarence McPhatter. “You would think you want people to vote for you, you would show your face.”

County Chairman Whit Gibson seemed torn.

“I approve of the building, but I do wish the owner conducting the business was present,” Gibson said.

Commissioner John T. Alford recommended approval of the project, saying it would benefit the county.

“I buy concrete. It is high buying from other counties,” he said. “It is gonna bring jobs and they will pay property taxes.”

When it cam time to vote, McPhatter voted against the request because he felt it was not properly presented to the board, but the request was approved by a 6-1 margin.

In other business:

— Sheriff’s deputy Daryll Ford invited the board to attend the Active Shooter Program on Sept. 10 and Sept . 18 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

— The board voted to approve the writing of a statement that will assure voters the proposed quarter-cent sales tax referendum, if passed in November, would solely go to the operation of a community and recreation facility. The issue will be voted on at the Monday, Oct. 1, meeting at 7 p.m.

Jael Pembrick can be reached at 910-506-3169 or [email protected]

Jael Pembrick

Staff writer