It took six votes spread over an hour-and-a-half of rancorous debate Wednesday night for the Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority to distribute most of its remaining funds to seven area transit agencies.
The final vote of 13 in favor with one abstention came on a compromise measure that nicked some funds from two agencies' requests while adding one from East Chicago to its original committee recommendations.
The final vote came after some members began to plead for a resolution to the issue on behalf of region bus riders.
"We could spend the whole night quibbling over this," said RBA board member Brian Poland just before the vote. "But it's ridiculous to spend all this time arguing over each of our own narrow interests."
In all, $544,191 was divvied up among the seven agencies, mainly to be used as local seed money to obtain federal grants to buy buses. Much of the money will be administered by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.
Never mentioned nor voted on Wednesday night was a proposal from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to take over and administer the RBA's remaining funds.
The RDA sent a letter last week to RBA Executive Director Tim Brown, stating that the RDA board of directors would consider any request from the bus group to administer its remaining funds.
"We are basically just saying we would serve as a backstop," Hanna said this week. "We administer many funds and we could administer these as well."
The letter encouraged the RBA that any remaining funds be applied to the goal of creating a regional bus system, stating: "the RDA feels that the intent of a regional system should still guide final disbursements."
Agencies that will receive funds under the RBA's action Wednesday night are Gary Public Transit Corp., $155,691; Valparaiso Dash and V-Line, $142,400; East Chicago Transit, $60,000; Opportunity Enterprises, $28,500; Porter County Council on Aging, $32,300; North Township, $41,800; and South Lake County Community Services; $83,500.
On a separate motion and vote, $11,690 was assigned to fund the Hammond Council on Accessible Transportation. It will be used to fund the activities of the council as well as settle outstanding legal issues between the RBA and the disability-rights group Everybody Counts.
Wednesday night's RBA meeting at the Merrillville Town Hall was the last ever for the RBA, which was decommissioned by the Lake County Council in the aftermath of the failure of the RBA's easygo Lake Transit bus service.