Posted on April 24, 2013
Originally published in the El Dorado News-Times on April 25, 2013.
Kudos abounded late Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday after El Dorado Mayor Frank Hash announced that the city is now the proud owner of its very own street car/trolley bus to transport visitors for tours and special, public events.
Hash said the 24-passenger rig is good to go, and a suggestion has already been made to name it the "Showtime Shuttle.?
"That?s going to be cute. If we change the paint scheme, we want to make sure that we get our heads together before we spend our money,? Hash said of the green, wood-paneled rig.
The bus was delivered Monday evening from a seller in McCrory and is being housed at the city shop for tweaking and tinkering, Hash said.
The city enlisted the help of Kent Stegall Used Cars for a professional evaluation of the street car and to transport it to El Dorado.
"He?s in that business and he was fully insured. Nobody here is an expert in used vehicles. We asked Kent Stegall to examine and test drive it, and see if he felt it was worthy and within the price range to bring back. He was very pleased with how it performed,? Hash said.
The total cost of the street car, including delivery, came in at $26,000. The bus is a 1992 model with less than 30,000 miles.
Hash has said the vehicle would be insured by the Arkansas Municipal League, and he said the applicable city offices spent Tuesday finalizing paperwork in association with the purchase.
Since the bus arrived in El Dorado, workers at the city shop have been familiarizing themselves with how it operates because they are going to be the ones to service it, he said.
The diesel-powered rig has some unique operating features, Hash said, pointing to a front and rear air conditioning/heating system and exterior components for changeable signs.
Hash acknowledged that he was mistaken when he previously said that a commercial driver?s license would not be required to drive the bus.
"Right now, I think we?d like to find someone who?s retired with a CDL. I found out that you do need a CDL (with a passenger endorsement) to operate it,? Hash said. "Since it?s going to be part-time, on an as-needed basis, we?d like to have the same person driving it all the time.?
Hash said details have not yet been worked out for user rates or operation and maintenance costs, including pay for a driver, but the city is going to "wing it? until such a structure is put in place.
"We?re going to be looking for something to maintain it and to cover expenses to operate it,? he said.
He said the performance check by KSUC concluded that the trolley bus is in good condition and does not need any major repairs.
"Of course, we?re going to need a fan belt or a tire at some point, but it looks like it?s going to be good to go for quite some time,? Hash said.
Hash said the city will probably touch up the paint scheme of the bus.
Local groups who are vested in implementing the city?s "It?s Showtime!? brand idea strongly advocated for the vehicle.
Last year, El Dorado Festivals and Events, Inc., who is leading the charge in turning El Dorado into "The Festival City of the South? steered the application process for a federal grant with a maximum amount of $280,000 to purchase a trolley bus for the city.
The El Dorado City Council ultimately backed away from the offer, agreeing that the city could not meet public transportation regulations that were attached to the grant.
One such regulation would have required that the street car be fully accessible to the public and run on regularly scheduled routes, with sheltered stops, at least five days a week.
By purchasing the trolley bus outright, the city is not bound by federal regulations.
Hash said he thinks the bus will be ready as more and more festivals and special events get rolling in El Dorado, but he?s not sure if it?ll be up for any "real immediate needs,? such as EFE?s Southern Food and Wine Festival this weekend.
"There are a lot of folks who are glad to have it. We haven?t had any specific requests yet,? he said.