COLUMBIA, Mo 1/21/19 (Beat Byte)
-- Columbia Public Schools (CPS) has never negotiated with City Hall about using city buses for student transportation, say city officials and Mayor Brian Treece
Controversy erupted at a January 10 campaign forum, when Mayoral candidate Chris Kelly attacked Treece
for lobbying against the idea with the state legislature. Columbia Tribune columnist Hank Waters piled on in a Saturday editorial
"If you are Mayor of a city, you should not lobby against things the city is trying to get done with its own school district," Kelly said. "It’s unseemly. It’s a conflict."
Treece's lobbying interfered with an ongoing negotiation, Kelly explained.
"The City and the School District entered into negotiations about putting school kids on city buses to take them to school," he told the forum audience, detailing the plan. "Change their lines a little bit, change the times a little bit, and we’ll give you some money and we’ll get some vouchers."
But that's not true, say Treece, acting city manager John Glascock
, public works director Dave Nichols
, and Drew Brooks
, city transit manager until last July.
"I was not approached by the school district nor did I have any discussions with the school district regarding this issue," Treece said. "Students can already ride the bus for free, and Federal requirements prohibit the city from offering exclusive service to single-entity customers."
"We have not negotiated any specific transit routes with Columbia Public Schools. We have not discussed contracting any specific transit routes with CPS," Glascock added. He, Nichols, and Brooks also categorically denied every part of the plan Kelly said City Hall was considering. "We have not negotiated any voucher system with CPS. We have not talked about any specific dollar mount with CPS. We have not reached any specific agreement with CPS. And the City Council was never officially informed of any specific negotiations with CPS."
City officials did, however, consult with the school district on placement of bus shelters; and launched a 2014 pilot voucher program that allowed Hickman High School students to ride city buses Glascock characterized as "not successful."