Wright County has wrestled with the topic of bus transit for the last several years since the dissolution of the River Rider program that had served Wright and Sherburne counties for decades prior. At the Oct. 22 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, the final step in that process of assuring the county would be a long-term partner in Trailblazer Transit was officially finalized.
Although it was a foregone conclusion the county’s participation in Trailblazer would be for the long run – the board approved bonding to take over payments on the facility from the City of Buffalo with Trailblazer funding paying off the annual debt service payments, there was still some paperwork that needed to be finalized.
“As part of the process of the county’s acquisition of the Trailblazer Transit facility on the north end of Buffalo, these are some of the final steps,” Asleson said. “There is a purchase agreement that is a document between the City of Buffalo and the County of Wright and there is a lease and purchase option agreement is between the county and Trailblazer.”
In addition, there was a third document that was previously unknown, but critical to the sale – allowing Buffalo access to the building for a significant fiber optic network that the installed in the building before it had any intention of selling it.
“The City of Buffalo has a fiber hub for its fiber network located in this building,” Asleson said. “There is a short agreement – a document signed by the County of Wright and City of Buffalo to access that equipment for necessary maintenance purposes.”
For its portion of the agreements, the Trailblazer Transit board signed off Oct. 17. The Buffalo City Council signed off on its portion at its Oct. 21 meeting. The closing is set for on or about Nov. 1.
Commissioner Mark Daleiden made a motion to approve the three agreements, but it wasn’t the last word on the decision. Commissioner Charlie Borrell objected to the lease and purchase agreement which stipulates that Trailblazer will end up owning the building at the end of the term of bonding when the bonds are paid off – something the state has been looking to do with transportation buildings it funds.
“I just think it could have been set up that we had ownership at the end,” Borrell said. “We’re taking the risk right now and we have nothing. Trailblazer will have the reward at the end – they will own the building.”
Until the bonds mature, Wright County will technically be the owner of the building and the annual cost to repay the bonds, approximately $350,000 a year, will be paid by the state through Trailblazer. Aside from issuing the bonds, the county isn’t expected to have cost for the repayment of the bonds, which is expected to be covered by state transit funding into the future.
Borrell, who has been a vocal opponent of the switch to Trailblazer, which was essentially forced onto Wright County when Sherburne County opted to move out of the River Rider program which had served both counties for years. He said there were elements to these agreements that he had problems with that he didn’t feel had been adequately resolved, but he knew he was going to be in the minority on the final vote.
“I’m not going oppose this,” Borrell said. “You guys are for it. I’m just probably going to abstain on this. I just don’t feel good about. It’s my fault I wasn’t involved enough in it, but I don’t want to stamp my name on it.”
The board approved all three of the document agreements with four yes votes and Borrell abstaining from the purchase and lease agreement, which technically counts as a “no” vote.