Public transportation millage necessary for local economy

On Tuesday, Nov. 5, Mecosta and Osceola residents (except for city of Big Rapids residents), will be asked to consider a 0.5-mill property tax to support the continuing operation of the Mecosta Osceola Transit Authority (MOTA) public transportation agency.

In May, Hope Network chose to provide transportation for their approximately 125 clients, thereby ending their relationship with MOTA. At this point, MOTA's doors will close on Friday, Nov. 8, per action MOTA's board of directors have taken, unless this millage passes.

Many of us believe if MOTA's doors close, it will be a most unfortunate situation not only for thousands of Mecosta and Osceola county residents, but also for the economic well-being of our region. Allow me to elaborate.

Like many parts of Michigan and the country in general, many employers daily face labor shortages. Gone are the days, if an employee leaves, are there 10 others waiting in line to take that person's place. And if you do find another replacement, it costs the employer lots of time and money to train this new employee.

Having been in the workforce development business for more than 40 years, I am very familiar with the two most difficult barriers some prospective employees face -- the lack of available and affordable daycare and transportation. Having a consistent, reliable and affordable public transportation system is crucial to not only these employees, but also to the employers who want to hire them. In this tight labor market, it is important that every person possible be employed.

This proposed 0.5 mill will mean $50 per year for a home valued at $200,000, or about $1 per week. The Mecosta County median (mid-point) home value is $112,700, and $88,300 for Osceola County, which means for about half of all home owners in both counties, the 0.5 mill will mean only $25 per year. This millage is for a 5-year period (2019-23), so if after five years MOTA is not providing the level of service we collectively believe we should be receiving, we don't renew it.

Here are a couple more facts to consider: If this millage does not pass, Osceola County will be one of only three of the 68 counties in the Lower Peninsula with a population over 20,000 that will not have public transportation covering any part of their county. Mecosta County will be one of only four counties in the Lower Peninsula in which only a small geographic portion of the county will be served with public transportation.

If this millage passes, here are three hours of operation enhancements MOTA will make:

• Increase Monday-Friday "end of day" hours from 6 to 10 p.m.

• Adding eight hours on Saturday (not currently provided)

• Adding eight hours on Sunday (not currently provided)

In closing, I would encourage all voting residents to look at "the big picture" of this millage request.

Mecosta and Osceola counties will be a more economically healthy region as a result of the transportation services MOTA will be able to provide. Thousands of residents who have no or very limited options to get to work, medical appointments, Social Security office, school, daycare, shopping or church will benefit from your yes vote on Nov. 5.

This public transportation system is already in place. Let's not dismantle it and later wish we hadn't. Thanks for your consideration.

Paul Griffith

Big Rapids