August 18, 2006
Millions in budget cuts are coming, but it's still up to Augusta commissioners to decide what city services and jobs have to go.
Administrator Fred Russell has already pitched some ideas, including cuts to the sheriff's department, recreation department and transportation.
The proposed cuts in city bus service have many people worried.
"Commissioners, please don't bother the bus," says Arthur Scarboro. "Please do not cut the budget--we absolutely need this. It's a necessity for me and my family, and many others in the community I'm sure."
Arthur rides the bus every day. His family, like many others, depends on public transportation in Richmond County.
But budget cuts proposed for 2007 include cutting over $1 million from the county's transit system.
In addition to cutting all Saturday services, the Turpin Hill route and the downtown shuttle route would be completely eliminated, and weekday routes would be reduced.
"To say there's no buses on Saturday or cutting the routes, I think that is going to hurt a lot of people that work, and students also," says Henry Jones, who, like Arthur, depends on the buses.
"We can't afford a taxi right now and we also can't afford to have our car fixed right now, so the bus is here and we definitely need it," Arthur says.
Willie Jones has ridden Augusta's buses for almost thirty years. He lost his sight in a 1974 car accident when he was 31 years old. He and his dog Chase ride the bus together every day to and from work.
"Without the bus, we're going to have to depend on someone to come pick us up, like a taxi," Willie says. "I can use the bus to pick up groceries, I can use the bus to pick up medication."
Willie works to motivate others with disabilities, and now he wants to motivate the community to speak out against the proposed budget. He started a petition, which, in two days, already has 306 signatures.
"My message for the commissioners is, you need to look at this situation concerning the bus services," he says. "We really need to solve this another way."
And Kathy Pelletier wants her commissioners to listen to the people.
"Ask the people what they think," she says. "They may opt for an increase in tax rather than take their transportation."
These bus riders want commissioners to hear their message: don't stop the bus.
The $1.025 million in cuts in city bus service is just one of the suggestions Fred Russell made this week. Commissioners will have many more meetings on the $6.5 million they need to cut before they make a final decision in November.