published Monday, May 6th, 2013

Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency seeks input on rural transit

IF YOU GO

The public hearing in Dunlap is 10 a.m. CDT May 15 at the Southeast Tennessee Human Resources Agency, 312 Resource Road. The office is off Rankin Avenue, just north of the intersection of Rankin and state Highway 111. Mail comments within 10 days of the hearing to Mary Cookston, 5311 Director, P.O. Box 909, Dunlap, TN 37327. For more information about rural transportation services, go to www.sethratransit.org or call the county SETHRA office.

SETHRA OFFICES

Bledsoe: 423-447-2444

Bradley: 423-478-3053

Grundy: 931-592-8260

Marion: 423-942-5946

McMinn: 423-745-8095

Meigs: 423-334-3305

Polk (Benton): 423-338-2335, (Ducktown): 423-496-2644

Rhea: 423-775-4010

Sequatchie: 423-949-2191

Source: Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency

Regional transportation officials want the public to offer ideas for improvements or new services provided by the Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency at a hearing set for May 15 in Dunlap, Tenn.

"This is something we do annually," SETHRA Executive Director Bill Harmon said Friday. The agency must submit the results of each year's hearing to the state before funding is doled out, he said.

"Sometimes we get good comments where we can improve our service, and sometimes we get comments where the grantor just will not let us do all the things the public would like to see us do," Harmon said.

"Anybody and everybody's welcome," he said.

The resource agency's 84 buses serve nine counties in Southeast Tennessee, with fixed routes established in Marion, McMinn and Rhea counties, according to officials. SETHRA charges $1 to ride inside the service county, $3 for rides to neighboring counties and $5 each way to go to Chattanooga from Marion or Rhea counties.

In 2008, the agency established a fixed transportation route in Marion County after suggestions from the public, SETHRA rural transportation director Mary Cookston said. That route, mostly around South Pittsburg and parts of Jasper, links riders to a number of shopping and medical services areas and to Chattanooga and other public transit systems.

Funding is always limited, but good ideas don't fall on deaf ears, Cookston said.

"Sometimes they have really great ideas," she said ofthe public. Those ideas are sent on to state officials who can help with strategies for funding improvements, she said.

"We want to hear about any improvements we can make," Cookston said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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