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County eases Rainbow Riders’ financial jam

Rainbow Rider is faced with a $100,000 budget shortfall for 2013 and Douglas County will kick in $56,838 to help the public transit organization cover the deficit.

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On Tuesday, Douglas County commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the funding for Rainbow Rider, which covers Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens, Todd and Traverse counties.

In a letter addressed to those counties’ social service directors earlier this year, it was reported that Rainbow Rider ended 2013 with a $100,000 deficit “due to increased service that we have provided but have not been reimbursed for by [the Minnesota Department of Transportation] over the last 10 years.”

During a county board meeting in March, Harold Jennissen, Rainbow Rider director, proposed that Douglas County’s portion of that deficit, based on ridership, would be $56,838.

Based on total ridership, Rainbow Rider also asked these counties to help cover its $100,000 shortfall for 2013: Grant, $7,638; Pope, $16,931; Stevens, $1,681; Todd, $12,057; and Traverse, $4,853.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Jerry Johnson voiced concern about people in Evansville being unable to get service from Rainbow Rider.

He said their service seems to be focused on higher populated cities like Alexandria.

Jennissen said Rainbow Rider’s original goal was to provide a public transportation option for all residents in its service area, including rural areas like Evansville, but it has become cost prohibitive.

2014 FACES


Jennissen also reported that Rainbow Rider faces an additional $145,787 shortfall for 2014; Douglas County’s share is projected at $78,655.

In March, commissioners encouraged the Rainbow Rider board revisit its budget for 2014.

Douglas County Commissioners Dan Olson and Charlie Meyer serve on Rainbow Rider’s board of directors.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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