Sandy Casselman
LJI Reporter

EMBRUN – Township of Russell Mayor Pierre Leroux asked council and staff to revisit the numbers behind council’s December 2020 bus service decision.

During the Jan. 18 council meeting, the mayor opened a discussion about the decision made with respect to the contract between the municipality and 417 Bus Line Limited. He made it clear that he was not looking to change the decision. His concern was with the amount of compensation agreed to if no service is being provided.

It should be noted a decision was made during the 2021 budget sessions last fall to discontinue the Russell Transpo Service, which is provided via a contract with 417 Bus Line Limited for four buses in the morning and four in the afternoon. Also, in 2020, staff negotiated a rebate with the bus line for a discount of 50 per cent for buses not running due to COVID-19.

At the Dec. 7, 2020 council meeting, politicians were presented with four scenarios to address the current issue of bus service cost versus lack of usage due to COVID-19. The first two scenarios included a one-year suspension of service followed by a restart in 2022, while the final two scenarios would see an end to the service with no plan for return.

In the end, with a recorded vote requested by Coun. Cindy Saucier, the vote landed 3-2 in favour of scenario four. Mayor Leroux and councillors Mike Tarnowski and Jamie Laurin voted in favour, while councillors Saucier and André Brisson voted against.

Scenario four included cancelling the contract with 417 Bus Line Limited without suspension of service during the six-month notice period of Dec. 22, 2020 to June 22. This scenario also included the municipality’s option to remove the fourth bus with only 30-days-notice. The cost of this scenario was the lowest of the four, coming in at $274,576. With potential money from provincial and federal government funding, the portion paid by the municipality could be considerably less.

The mayor’s concern during the Jan. 18 meeting was with paying full price for no service. With respect to the contract, Mayor Leroux said he felt it made sense to pay only 50 per cent of the cost if no service is being provided. After some discussion, the matter was taken in camera. In the end, Mayor Leroux reported that staff is expected to come back to council with more information in February 2021.