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RTC rescinds contract, putting bus system in limbo

Updated Thursday, July 14, 2011 | 1:52 p.m.

The Regional Transportation Commission today officially rescinded its controversial bus operations contract, leaving the future of the bus system in question.

The commission’s board approved a contract with First Transit at its May 19 meeting in a vote that later was declared illegal by the state attorney general’s office.

Today’s unanimous vote nullifies the contract, but doesn't answer the question of what company will operate the bus system in the future. The contract, which would have gone into effect Oct. 1, was for three years and could have been extended twice for two years each. The board will likely reconsider the contract at its August meeting.

The contract, worth about $83 million annually, has been the subject of intense lobbying and debate since it moves operation of the valley’s bus system from one of the largest transportation companies in the world, Veolia Transportation, to another.

First Transit’s bid for the contract was millions of dollars less than Veolia’s, but some board members said they were concerned that First Transit underbid the contract.

The board voted 4-3 to approve the contract, with representatives from North Las Vegas, Henderson, Boulder City and Mesquite voting for the contract, and representatives from Las Vegas and Clark County opposing it.

But Las Vegas Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian, who had just been appointed to the board to replace former Mayor Oscar Goodman, wasn't at the meeting, so while the four votes met the majority of the board members present, it was not the five votes needed to be a majority of all board members.

Attorneys for Veolia Transportation protested at the next commission meeting, saying state law requires the board to act by a majority vote of all members, regardless of whether they are present.

Both Veolia and the RTC requested an opinion from the office of Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. The office responded Friday, saying the law did apply to the RTC and the board would need to rescind its vote or face action by the state.

The RTC made a last minute addition to its agenda for Thursday’s regular board meeting so it could rescind the vote.

However, the board didn't take any other action on the contract at the meeting.

First Transit asked the Supreme Court to decide on the contract, but that request was denied Wednesday and the court ordered First Transit to go to District Court first.

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