Dial-a-Ride bus service expanding soon in wake of millage approval last fall

By Ralph R. Echtinaw

Expanded Dial-a-Ride bus service in St. Louis, Ithaca and Pine River Township should begin in April and be fully staffed by October, following voter approval of a millage to support the newly created St. Louis Ithaca, Pine River Transit Authority last November.

The new millage generates an additional $257,000 dollars (approximately) per year from St. Louis, Ithaca, and Pine River Township combined for the Transit Authority.

The Alma Transportation Center, which operates the Dial-a-Ride service, has 18 buses and vans to serve residents of Alma, St. Louis, Ithaca and Pine River Township. This is an increase of three from last year. 

“We aren’t planning on adding any more vehicles at this time,” said Transportation Director Brett Baublitz via email. “We’ll see how demand is before we make an additional purchase of vehicles.”

The transit center employs 20 people and is looking to hire up to six additional part-time drivers, a full-time accountant and a full-time mechanic who will also be needed to drive at times.

Baublitz praised St. Louis, Ithaca and Pine River Township officials for their dedication to making the transit authority work. “It’s been a pleasure working with both city managers (Kurt Giles and Jamey Conn) and the Pine River Township supervisor (Kevin Beeson). We all recognize the need for public transit. This will allow our communities to become closer and provide independence for those who need transportation.”

For more information, visit the Alma Transit Center’s web site: https://www.ci.alma.mi.us/alma-transit.php

Electronic message board sign

Councilman Roger Collison suggested at this month’s goal-setting meeting that the city look into getting an electronic message board sign similar to what Breckenridge village and St. Louis Schools have. Councilman George Kubin said it would be nice to have such a sign on M46. Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr. said such a sign might violate the city’s sign ordinance.

Police radios

Ramereiz told councilmen that Motorola no longer makes the radios that St. Louis police officers use or even parts to fix broken radios. In a year or two it won’t be possible to repair existing radios, he said. So 18 radios must be replaced in the near future. The cost is about $5,000 each. They’ll have to be purchased over time, Ramereiz said, with hand-held radios taking priority.

China virus affects police behavior

Ramereiz told councilmen that officers have to be more careful than usual for fear of being infected with the China virus, even when deciding whether or not to pull someone over. “Our guys have pulled back from some of the stops we would typically do,” he said. “Every contact is a potential exposure. If two of my guys go out that’s almost half of my work force.”

Also, some complaints that would normally be addressed in person are being handled over the phone on account of the virus.

Although no one in the city’s employ has been reported to have contracted the virus, at least four employees (including the city manager) had to quarantine for two weeks after potential exposure.

Wastewater treatment plant

Councilmen voted to spend $7,245 on lab equipment for the Wastewater treatment plant. The piece de resistance is a Hatch DR 3900 spectral photometer, which Giles called “a big upgrade.”

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