Assurances that the Bach administration went to the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority asking for money to continue FREX are now in dispute, raising questions about whether the commuter bus service could have continued through 2012.
According to interviews and an email obtained by The Gazette, the city of Colorado Springs never asked the PPRTA for “potential financial support” following last week’s City Council vote to continue FREX.
“In reviewing the statements from the City of Colorado Springs concerning PPRTA funding, in particular transit funding, I’ve noticed several inaccuracies,” Robert MacDonald, executive director of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, said in an email Tuesday to Chief of Staff Laura Neumann.
“First, the city staff has not met with the PPRTA Board to ask for additional funding for FREX, FREX is fully funded by the PPRTA through the end of the year,” he wrote.
El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey, who chairs the PPRTA board, said Tuesday he was surprised to read in The Gazette that morning that the city had asked for additional funds and that further financial support “was not an option.”
“At our commissioner meeting (on Tuesday), I made the comment that what I read in the paper where the city had come to the RTA and asked for more money, I don’t know when that happened,” he said.
“We did have a discussion about FREX a couple of months ago, but it was not a request from the city for more money to fund FREX, and we didn’t have any discussion about it at the last RTA meeting,” he said. “There had been some talk of having a late item added to the agenda to talk about FREX, but it didn’t happen.”
Councilwoman Angela Dougan, who also serves on the RTA board, has a different recollection.
During last week’s PPRTA board meeting, she said, she asked whether “the PPRTA board would like to look at funding the FREX system” and that no one raised a hand to have that discussion.
“Not a peep,” she said.
When Mayor Steve Bach formally announced the discontinuation of FREX at a press conference on Tuesday, he said he believed the city had been having “ongoing conversations” and that “this matter” has come up several times.
“We went to the PPRTA and asked if they could help additionally, and they were not able to do so,” Bach said during the press conference.
“That’s really what drives the decision today is that we’ve exhausted our efforts to try to find funding help from PPRTA, from the county, from Monument, from Denver,” he said.
After the press conference, Neumann, the mayor’s chief of staff, said she didn’t have those conversations with the PPRTA.
“However, staff of the city were present, and (the PPRTA board) didn’t have the appetite to talk about any more additional funding as it relates to supporting FREX or any other transportation matter at that time,” she said.
“We went seeking an answer, and the answer was no,” she added.
But in an email Wednesday morning, Neumann said “obviously there is a disconnect as to who remembers what” and that she was going to find out what happened.
“You may rest assured I will get to the bottom of this matter and resolve not only “who said what”; but, more importantly, if are there are actually monies available to continue FREX,” she said.
The Gazette has requested a tape of the PPRTA board meeting and will update this story as soon as possible.