Joint powers board names new regional transit system
WILLMAR --------- A new name has been selected for a newly-merged regional transit system that goes into effect next year. Starting Jan. 1, the Kandiyohi Area Transit and the Renville County Heartland Express will begin operating as one entity un...
WILLMAR - A new name has been selected for a newly-merged regional transit system that goes into effect next year.
Starting Jan. 1, the Kandiyohi Area Transit and the Renville County Heartland Express will begin operating as one entity under the new name of Central Community Transit.
The final decision on the name came after four months of brainstorming, a contest by employees of the two transit systems and filtering through at least 50 suggestions.
Acting on the final recommendation Friday morning, a new joint powers board comprised of representatives from both counties gave their blessing to the name.
“It’s kind of like picking out carpeting,” said Paul Stetzepfandt, Renville County Commissioner, of the naming process.
“There were lots of good suggestions,” said Bruce DeBlieck, a Willmar city councilmember.
Words like “prairie winds, “north star” and “west central” were some of the suggestions.
There was a concerted effort not to tie the new name to a specific community to respect the merger of two equal partners.
While the new name may not be as snappy as KAT, which is what the Kandiyohi Area Transit is known as, the Central Community Transit name fits a merged two-county transit system that may eventually grow to include other neighboring counties, like Meeker County, which already shares a route with KAT.
The name will also be paired with a tag-line “Connecting Communities Together” said KAT Transit Director Tiffany Collins.
Both the name and the motto share the CCT acronym.
“We can grow with that name,” said Kevin Crowley, who is the mayor of Pennock and also serves on the joint powers board.
Having a name allows Collins to obtain a new federal identification number that’s needed to get funding.
“It was a big deal to get a new name today,” she said.
Bids will be sought to secure a marketing firm to help design a logo with the new name and motto that will be put on buses, bus stops and other transit equipment.
“We want to promote this change in a positive manner,” Collins said.
The new name may be about the only thing the public will immediately notice when the merger takes place.
Current services will continue and may eventually be expanded, Collins said.
Meanwhile other aspects of the merger are continuing to be worked out, such as salary differences between employees.
The transit staff in Renville County belong to a union and have higher salaries than the KAT employees, Collins said.
She said the two groups of employees, which includes 28 individuals at KAT and 12 with Renville County, will need to decide if they want to belong to a union or not.
No matter what their decision is, she said employees will not take a pay cut with the merger.
“There are no plans to have any staff see less wages,” she said.
A preliminary budget for the merged transit has been submitted but Collins said the Minnesota Department of Transportation will determine how much they will fund, and then adjustments can be made.
KAT currently has reserve funds that will be transferred to the new merged Central Community Transit system.
Most of that money came from MnDOT anyway, Collins said.
A separate grant is being sought to fund the merger transition costs, such as creating a new logo and marketing.
MnDOT has been strongly encouraging county transit systems to merge in order to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Offices and garages will be maintained in Willmar and Olivia, but because the buses will be under the ownership of a merged entity, they can be serviced and fueled up in either community, Collins said.
The joint powers board also approved a list of individuals to serve on the joint operations board, which includes nine people from Kandiyohi County and five people from Renville County.