After hearing emotional pleas from the public on June 1, the Oro Valley Town Council voted to fund the Coyote Run Transit System for at least one more year.
The measure to keep Coyote Run passed in a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Satish Hiremath voting no.
After a public hearing where residents pleaded with the council not to eliminate a program they said exceeds all others, Councilman William Garner immediately made a motion to keep the town’s transit system intact by using funds from the bed tax. Councilman Barry Gillaspie seconded the motion.
After a lengthy discussion, Councilman Joe Hornat said he had to side with Garner and Gillaspie, noting it’s not fair to increase taxes and eliminate services in the same year.
In May, the council voted 5-2 to increase the town’s utility tax from 2 percent to 4 percent for an added $1.3 million in revenue. Council members were planning to cut Coyote Run to save an additional $220,000.
During the public hearing, council members heard firsthand how important Coyote Run is to many residents.
“I am speaking for the fragile children seen on Coyote Run being treated with such care by the drivers. I have a hard time understanding how we can even be considering balancing our budget on the backs of our children,” Gloria Stanley said.
Besides senior citizens 62 and over, Coyote Run is available to all disabled citizens.
One resident after another described Coyote Run as a stellar program where drivers go beyond the call of duty to take care of riders.
By keeping the program, 13 drivers will keep their jobs.
One of those drivers is Casey Davis, whose wife, Jana, was in the audience.
“What I think many of the people were saying tonight is the RTA will provide curb-to-curb service. Coyote Run is about providing a door-to-door service,” Jana said. “This is my husband’s forever job. He loves helping people and making a difference in their lives. I was surprised so many of the council changed their mind, but I think hearing these stories helped.”
On May 4, the council voted 6-1, with Councilman Garner voting against, to take the necessary steps to eliminate the service by June 30. With the council directive, Aimee Ramsey, certified community transit manager, began working with riders to find alternative solutions through services offered by the RTA. Ramsey had been working with the RTA for more than a year to prepare for the transition.
Ramsey called the council’s decisions a good surprise.
“I think the vote shows this council really understands the needs of the public. While there are alternatives out there, the services provided by Coyote Run cannot be duplicated,” she said.
The vote for at least one more year of service provides more time to work with the RTA and prepare for the future, Ramsey said.
Hiremath expressed disappointment in the decision, saying the council voted to keep Coyote Run without giving the RTA a chance.
Hiremath is the vice chairman of the RTA board.
The RTA currently operates the Sun Shuttle system and a dial-a-ride program.