BAY ST. LOUIS -- The city's free trolley, which has been in operation for about five months, may see the end of the line in December, a victim of a tightened budget and ongoing financial problems.
At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Coast Transit Authority representatives lobbied city leaders to renew the trolley's contract, handing out paperwork and citing figures on how the bus is promoting tourism in Bay St. Louis.
The bus is scheduled to go out of service Dec. 31 after the council cut it from the newly adopted budget that took effect Oct. 1.
The trolley, which is a bus designed to look like a New Orleans street car, began serving parts of the city in July, mostly connecting downtown businesses with Hollywood Casino. It is funded in part by the city and casino. The remainder is federal funding.
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Council members seemed to agree they'd like to keep the trolley but expressed concerns over how the city could continue to fund it. The city's share is about $14,100 every six months.
Council President Joey Boudin said he doesn't think it's fair to place the financial burden on the entire city when the bus serves only a small portion of the residents.
He pointed out the council cut charitable donations to numerous nonprofit organizations this year as the city reeled over cash-flow problems and a fiscal audit that found more than a dozen violations of financial laws.
Jane Alford, a Bay business owner and president of the Old Town Merchants Association, spoke in support of the bus.
She took issue with the idea the bus serves only a small portion of Bay St. Louis, saying anything that helps promote tourism "helps the city as a whole."
CTA, with help from the Old Town Merchants Association and local businesses, organized an effort last week, largely via social media, to garner support for renewing the trolley's contract.
Boudin said he'd like to see that same effort go in to securing sponsorships that could pay for the contract.
He said CTA should look at the idea of selling ad space on the bus or on the benches at bus stops.
The council proposed to further discuss those options with the Old Town Merchants Association at a workshop next month.