You’re the newest reporter at the Troy Times and its website, troytimes.com. Your editor has sent you to cover the City Council meeting. Because you must post your story to the Internet almost immediately, you do not have a lot of time to work on it. With the following notes and quotes, write a 200- to 250-word news story, according to the styles and rules of journalism and the AP Stylebook.
Your story must:
_Be written in correct AP style (you must correct any style errors that appear in the text below)
_Be paragraphed and double-spaced according to the instructions given in class (do not use the tab key; use line returns only at the ends of paragraphs)
_Contain at least one hyperlink (a video linked from the Course Schedule shows you how to create a hyperlink)
Put your name and “Story 1” at the top.
Here’s the information:
The City Council meeting began at 6 p.m. on Monday. Mayor Bobby Sanders was presiding, and all five council members were in attendance.
The mayor said that all new business would be postponed until the next meeting. He also said only one item of old business would be discussed. The mayor’s wife, Jill Sanders, was there. She teaches fourth grade at Troy Elementary.
The item of old business was a public transportation system for Troy. Mayor Sanders: “This city must have some sort of public transportation system. And we as a council must find a way to provide one.” Sanders pointed to the traffic jams around Troy Elementary and Middle schools and the worsening traffic on U.S. 231 as reasons for such a system.
Councilman Harlan Davis disagreed with the mayor on the need for a system. “Where’s the money going to come from?” he asked.
A discussion ensued on the council over just what type of system would work in Troy.
The mayor favored a three-line bus system. One line would go from U.S. 231 to the town square, one line would go from Troy Place apartments to the town square, and another would go from Orange Street out to U.S. 231, in on George Wallace Drive, around to U.S. 29 east of town, and then back through the town square to Orange Street.
Davis said they could barely afford one of those lines, much less all three.
Councilwoman Harriet Smith suggested a jitney bus system that would respond to phoned-in requests for rides. The system wouldn’t have a set schedule, and the bus would be parked if no one requested it. Smith said, “If it turns out a lot of people want to use the jitney bus, we could add new ones as we go.”
City Auditor Ken Williams was asked the relative prices of buses versus jitneys and what operational costs each incurred.
Williams said a jitney bus costs about $60,000, while a full-sized bus goes for about $150,000. The jitney carries 20 to 30 people, while the bus can transport up to 75 people when full.
Williams didn’t have exact figures on the operating costs of each, but said the full bus has a gas tank of 80 gallons and gets about 7 m.p.g. The jitney, Williams said, has a 40-gallon gas tank and gets about 12 m.p.g.
Councilman Mose Brown, a former official in the Alabama Department of Transportation, said a rough estimate of operating costs for the 75-passenger bus was $100 per passenger mile. He didn’t know the comparable jitney figure, but said it was likely to be somewhere between $50 and $60 a passenger mile. He did not explain what a passenger mile is, and no one asked him to explain.
Mayor Sanders said perhaps a combination of the two systems would work, with one bus line making a big circle around Troy on a scheduled basis and a jitney system transporting people on call if their destination were not within 500 yards of a regular bus stop.
“I like the idea of a combination bus line,” Williams said. “It would be the best of both worlds.”
Davis continued to oppose a new system, basically on the grounds of it being too costly. He said: “Buses and jitneys don’t grow on trees. Neither does insurance policies that we’d need to have. And if I recall, the state still requires bus drivers to have a special license.”
The mayor and Smith said they guessed that at least half of Troy residents would use the bus at least sometime during the year. They also agreed that a number of Troy University students don’t own cars and would welcome buses. “The international students can’t bring a car with them, so you’d start with them,” Smith said.
The subject then turned to methods of financing any new system. Mayor Sanders said he’d like to keep fares around 50 cents, but figured that people would pay as much as a dollar.
Davis: “That’s once we get the buses. Where are we going to find a half-million dollars to buy the buses, find a storage facility, get employees to run ’em and managers to oversee them?”
The mayor asked Williams what assets Troy held and what could be sold for what amount.
Williams said he didn’t have a complete list, but he said the city owns land near the Sikorsky plant and on U.S. 29 east. He said several parties had expressed an interest in those properties.
Williams estimated that the money recoverable from each of these two parcels would range between $100,000 and $130,000. He said he would look at other city assets and their values, and would report those at the same meeting.
Councilman J.C. Watson said raising the city’s sales tax by one-quarter of 1 cent would bring in about $600,000 a year. Watson has pushed for a city sales tax increase in other meetings. The present city sales tax is 2 cents on the dollar; when state and county taxes are added, the total sales tax that people pay on purchases is 8 cents.
“J.C.,” said Smith, who usually votes on the same side as Watson, “you can’t just raise taxes and expect to start rolling in the dough.” She said consumers can go elsewhere with lower sales taxes, and Watson’s estimate was too high.
At about 7:30 p.m., Mayor Sanders said: “I know we’re not here tonight to make a final decision. But I did want to start the discussion of this vital service that I think we can and should provide.”
Sanders ordered Auditor Williams to report at the next meeting the estimated operating costs of the three types of systems discussed: buses, jitneys and the hybrid with both.
Sanders also ordered Williams to report a full listing of the city’s assets and their respective values. He asked City Clerk Susan Hudnett to report on the results of sales tax increases in other towns in Alabama. Sanders said he wanted the revenues projected and the actual revenues. And the mayor encouraged citizens to comment by contacting him or other members of the council, who are listed on the city’s website.
Despite the mayor’s comment about not making a final decision, Smith proposed a motion to approve a resolution stating that the intent of the city is to provide a public transportation system to the citizens of Troy, with details on type and routes to be determined after further study. The resolution specified that the costs are to be paid for through an immediate 1 cent increase in the city’s sales tax.
Mayor Sanders seconded the motion. The vote was 4-1 in favor, with only Councilman Davis voting no. City Auditor Williams said that collection of the tax will begin Sunday.
After the meeting, Davis told reporters: “The people don’t need a bus system. They need a tax cut to buy their own cars and gas and go where they want to go. And you watch — that’s exactly what people will say.”