Las Vegas Sun

June 17, 2019

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Public transit stalemate likely headed to court

The fate of the valley’s public transit service remains in question — and likely again headed for the courts — after the Regional Transportation Commission board was unable to come to a resolution Thursday.

The RTC scored a victory last month when it got a District Court judge to give it another chance to come to an agreement on the 6-month-old debate. At that time, RTC officials said they were continuing discussions and making progress on an agreement.

The board has been split 4-4 on whether to offer the bus service contract to First Transit, the low bidder on the contract, or start the process over, the option favored by Veolia Transportation. Veolia currently operates the system and is the high bidder for the new contract.

The contract first was awarded to First Transit in May by a 4-3 vote. That vote was later unanimously rescinded by the board after an opinion from the state attorney general’s office said the RTC must have five votes to take action under the Nevada open meeting law.

Since then, the board has been split on the contract.

At a Sept. 16 court hearing, Judge Rob Bare said the initial vote to award the contract to First Transit was valid, but so was the vote to rescind the contract. He declined to force the RTC to take action, but told First Transit to bring the case back to him if the board didn’t come to a quick resolution.

That now appears to be the most likely scenario.

The board held a closed-session meeting for more than an hour Thursday to discuss the lawsuit and options with its attorney, but after returning to the open hearing, the board declined to give any direction to the attorney in public.

Chairman Larry Brown then laid out a lengthy defense of his position. He wants to start the bid process over.

He said everyone on the board has voted his or her conscience and the board has “agreed to disagree.”

Brown, a Clark County commissioner, defended the board against the Federal Transit Administration, which has said it is worried about the deadlocked votes. The administration provides money to partially fund the system.

But Brown said the administration agrees the board has a right to decline all bids and start over if it is “sound business practice.” He said he thinks it is the board’s duty to examine the contract and do what is best for the public.

Fellow County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani agreed, arguing the bus system should be split into smaller contracts.

Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler was the only board member to discuss the opposing view, saying the process had been fair and should be completed.

In the end, the board’s Thursday vote matched its previous vote, with Henderson Councilwoman Debra March, North Las Vegas Councilman Robert Eliason and Mesquite Councilman Kraig Hafen joining Tobler in favor of First Transit, and Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross and Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian joining Brown and Giunchigliani to oppose the First Transit contract.

The board briefly discussed its upcoming paratransit contract bid process. The contract is held by First Transit. Commissioners agreed to schedule a workshop where they could discuss their options and hear from stakeholders, but a date wasn’t set.

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