Century OKs plan for transportation
Couple to provide rides in and around town
March 17, 2022
The Century council Tuesday night unanimously approved consulting with Town Attorney Matt Dannheisser to formulate a fair contract following a request from Century residents Gregory and Trina Tanner to rent a space in the Century Business Center to open Metro Rapid Transit transportation service from Century to the surrounding areas.
The couple will occupy three offices, about 1,000 square feet, at the Century Business Center at 150 E. Pond street.
“We are hoping that we can come to you to establish a regulatory transportation between our city and Pensacola offering door to door service for seniors and elderly to doctor's appointments and to local hospitals in the area,” said Mr. Tanner. “Also, it's our hope to establish a local route going to local establishments, subdivisions, pharmacies and the supermarkets.”
The Tanner have asked for a break on the rent for the first year until they build up their clientele. Mayor Ben Boutwell had told them at a prior meeting they have to have liability insurance, they will be paying the electric bill and that he and the council would have to discuss a rent amount, suggesting an amount per square foot, but that it was up to the council to decide.
He said there will be buses there down toward the old shop and the buses will be maintained in Pensacola.
The Tanners said they plan on eventually having six buses, two minivans and four minibuses, which carry eight passengers maximum and four wheelchairs.
Councilman Luis Gomez expressed concern that there are already renters there and that the Tanners would have to be aware they are there and work with them in the same building. The Tanners said they have no problem with them.
Gomez said he did support then project fully, that Century needed the service but insisted that he thought Dannheisser should be consulted in deciding the terms of the contract so the council would not be accused of any perceived favoritism.
Gomez asked if the couple had any type of budget they could pay, citing that the town in previous administrations imposed $1 a year perpetually with no increase, which Gomez said the town can no longer do going forward.
“What we can do is discuss serious rent,” said Gomez.
Mayor Boutwell suggested maybe renegotiating after 12 months, helping them out for the first year to build up their clientele.
Gomez said the Director of the Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) Kimbrough Rodriguez was in full support of the Tanners and it will not interfere with ECAT's routes.
Mr. Tanner said ECAT bus 30 will still come Mondays and Tuesdays but Metro Rapid will fill in, to bring riders who need transportation from their homes to the bus stop and hope to put bus stops around the town of Century in the future, like at Food Giant and other places. They will work with the town to determine which areas will be best, including students who need rides to school or other places. Councilwoman Dynette Lewis asked about a timeline, hours of operation and what security they plan on having. The Tanners said they would like to be open and running by April 1, with hours 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. They plan to have security cameras set up at the business to protect the buses and offices. They will have a key to lock up the compound.
Councilman James Smith expressed concern about what the council was voting on and how much money is at stake for rent for the next year.
“When are we supposed to be talking about if they're going to get a free lease for a year?” asked Smith. “They're asking for a whole year for free. I'm trying to understand. Are we voting on when they are moving in or are we voting on a three-month lease free, six-month, or anything.”
Mayor Boutwell said he was not talking about free at all and that he planned to bring some numbers back to the council for further discussion and did not imply anything for $1 or for free. He clarified, with Town Clerk Leslie Howington's help, that the council is making a motion to go forward with the contract and the rate and then bring it back to the council.
Smith said the Tanners will be waiting until the next meeting April 4, to move in. Howington asked if April 5 was possible, the day following the next council meeting.
“April 5 would truly put me on hold again,” said Mrs. Tanner. “And I'm trying to get in to get set up. We need to get in the building to get running, we'd like to be running by the first week in April.”
Councilman Gomez said the town cannot allow them to move in without a valid contract.
“We would be liable for anything and we have done that in the past,” said Gomez. “We just gave Wesley Chapel and Pastor Hawkins them their contracts. Wesley Chapel has been out there since 2016 and that was wrong.”
Gomez said he understands Smith's concerns and assured the Tanners they are supportive but that everything has to be legal and properly carried out. Mrs. Tanner said she was not asking for free, but she knows the town needs the service and she would rather not wait another month.
Gomez told her when the attorney came up with a contract, there could be an agreement.
Smith questioned their business plan timeline and expressed concern that there is still confusion, claiming there are proper ways to move ahead. Boutwell said he will consult with Dannheisser and bring it back to the table. He said the turnaround time will depend on Dannheisser's ability to get back with the town quickly.
Councilwoman Sandra McMurray Jackson made a motion to move forward with the Metro Rapid Transit, allowing the mayor contact Attorney Dannheisser and get back with the council. It was seconded by Councilman Smith. The motion carried.
In other business, the council:
-Approved the purchase of two trucks, one for the gas superintendent and one for the water superintendent, totaling $66,000 utilizing funds from Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) funds
-Approved a $36,000 transfer from LOST funds as reimbursement to the gas department as payment on a loan for a pipeline relocation project
-Recognized and honored long-time resident, nurse and midwife “Mama” Ruth Paige as an important contributing member of Century, having helped birth more than 2,000 babies over 70 years in the Century and surrounding areas proclaiming Paige as the matriarch of the Town of Century on March 12, 2022.