Grass-roots Movement for Transit System Gaining Ground in Region 8

July 29, 2004 -- Posted 5:30 p.m. CDT

Jonesboro, AR -- Members of the Northeast Arkansas Transit Authority are collecting signatures for a petition which would place a public transit system on the November ballot in Craighead County.

Steve Ewart with NEAT is on a grass-roots mission to make that happen.

"We're getting a lot of interest right now, we're getting a lot of calls from people who want a copy of the petition, said Ewart.

NEAT officials must obtain signatures from 15% of the number of voters in the last Craighead County Circuit Court Clerk election, or roughly 3,400 signatures. Some folks we spoke to are all for an easy way to get around town.

Those opposed to a transit system are concerned about just that, the economic repercussions, like a future sales tax, or a system that doesn't accommodate everyone in the county. Some officials believe a local transit system would cost about 450 thousand dollars a year.

"We see this as a 3 year period, after a 3 year period we would let the people assess this again, and make sure this is exactly what they want," said Ewart.

NEAT says it chose to pursue the option of a petition after not getting assistance from the Craighead County Qurom Court.

The county's attorney says the Qurom Court could pass 2 measures that would bypass the normal route of possibly putting this issue on the ballot, although it has never been done before.

"When we understood that was probably not going to happen, that we weren't even put on the agenda for the meeting that was this last Monday, then we quietly went on," said Ewart.

"You don't have to be on the agenda at the Qurom Court meeting to come up to us and talk," said Qurom Court member Delane Hogan. "Now why a couple of board members were present at the meeting and Mr. Ewart was not, I can not answer that."

All petitions must be turned in by September 3rd to make it on the ballot.