The future Douglas County Transportation District is taking shape.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted Wednesday to sign an order initiating the formation of the countywide district. The commissioners also scheduled a second public hearing on the district for Sept. 12. A first hearing held Wednesday drew no public comment.
A board of directors will be elected in November to oversee the district, which will operate independently of the county government. The district board will be charged with collecting transportation grant money and determining how that money is spent. No tax dollars will be collected by the district.
The county government has been accepting state and federal transportation dollars and funneling them to the providers of transportation programs like U-Trans and Dial-a-Ride. The transportation district board members will take over that function in the future. They’ll be installed just in time to handle a dramatic uptick in the amount of dollars available for transit programs. Currently, the county receives just over $500,000 from the state every two years. Beginning next year, that amount is expected to swell to between $2.5 million and $3.5 million, thanks to the passage of a new statewide transit tax of $1 per $1,000 in wages.
So far six candidates have filed for seven positions on the Douglas County Transportation District Board. Two, Toby Notenboom and Vic Falgout, formerly supervised the U-Trans public transit system for the United Community Action Network.
Notenboom said Falgout was his boss for about a year. Notenboom was the director for U-Trans, while Falgout was a program director in charge of several programs, one of which was U-Trans.
“I just want to make sure it gets done right,” Notenboom said of his run for a seat on the district board.
He said it’s exciting that Douglas County will have a countywide transit district.
“It’ll be good for the county, it’ll be good for county business and it’ll be good for county citizens, just a good thing all the way around,” he said.
Notenboom owned Paul Jackson Wholesale in Roseburg until 2007, before joining UCAN. He lives in Winchester.
Falgout of Roseburg is a retired director of the Douglas County Juvenile Department and helped create the county’s juvenile detention center. After leaving the juvenile department, he joined UCAN. He said UCAN took over the system from the organization that had run it earlier and stabilized it.
He said some of the other people running asked him to join the district board.
“They think that together we could work out a better, stronger bus system for the county,” he said.
Sutherlin attorney Mark Hendershott said he has been interested in transit since he put himself through law school as a Portland TriMet bus driver. He was a member of the Transit Advisory Committee of the Umpqua Public Transit System in the 1990s, when U-Trans was operated by the Umpqua Regional Council of Governments. During that time he worked with two other candidates, Falgout and Mike Baker, he said.
Hendershott said he’d like to see transportation services expand so that county residents could make connections with buses going into Eugene.
He also said he’d like to see a board member from South County. Currently, there are two Roseburg candidates, one Winchester candidate and three candidates from North County, but none from South County.
Baker served as a Roseburg city councilor from 2003 to 2006 and 2008 to 2012. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor against longtime Mayor Larry Rich in 2012 and 2014.
Baker is a planning and programming manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation. He is also a previous board president of Umpqua Regional Council of Governments, and served on that board when it ran U-Trans.
Baker said with Roseburg becoming more of a retirement community, there will be even more need for public transit in the future. Baker suggested more frequent bus stops as well as an expansion of night and weekend services.
“I know they’re going to get a bunch more money from the state, so it would be nice to capitalize on that and increase service in some way,” he said.
Jennifer Bragg is the development officer for North Douglas Betterment, a nonprofit that aims to improve the quality of life for Drain, Yoncalla and Elkton residents. Bragg said one of North Douglas Betterment’s projects is a Dial-a-Ride service for North County. Bragg said her rural experience would be an asset to the board. She lives in the Rice Valley area north of Oakland.
Vince Portulano, of Oakland, ran on the Democratic ticket for state House District 7 in 2016, but lost to Republican Cedric Hayden. He is a volunteer driver for Douglas Rides, a member of the Oakland School District and a substitute teacher for the Douglas Education Service District. Portulano could not be reached for comment.