A proposed budget cut by the City of Casper to the local nonprofit public transit system won't wreck it, but it could significantly affect some of the poor, elderly and disabled residents who use it, several councilmembers said Tuesday.

"I view the CATC thing as a need, not a want," Mike Huber said during a work session.

"It's one of the kinds of things that makes a city welcoming good place, versus something that's just going backwards," Huber said.

The Casper Area Transportation Coalition oversees the general transit system known as "The Bus" -- the white buses with the blue, green, red and yellow stripes -- with six fixed routes that serve Casper, Mills and Evansville.

The other transit system, just called "CATC" with the cream- and orange-colored buses, offers door-to-door service for the elderly, disabled, blind, deaf and Medicare patients travel from their residences to doctors and stores.

Both systems log about 200,000 riders a year.

As part of the effort to reduce General Fund allocations -- the volatile part of the budget susceptible to the whims of the energy-based economy -- the city's development department and CATC staff were asked to find ways to trim the coalition's budget, according to the agenda for the work session.

They found a number of possible changes, ranging from 0.6 percent in savings -- by minimally cutting the hours of service and routes traveled -- to 44 percent in savings by eliminating all service on Saturdays, and majorly adjusting or eliminating portions of routes.

Aaron Kloke, the supervisor of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the option with the greatest savings and the least impact on riders -- by not eliminating Saturday service -- would produce a savings of about 20 percent, or nearly $160,000 a year. That great a cut would require a public notice and comment period of about six weeks, Kloke added.

However, that saving for the city would result in double that cost to CATC because the federal government matches local money for public transportation, the coalition's executive director Marge Cole told the council.

Former councilmember and CATC supporter Carol Crump said any funding cut would require consulting with Mills and Evansville because The Bus serves them.

City Manager Carter Napier cautioned the council that the proposed reductions would not leave all disabled people in the lurch. CATC, like other public services, should always be looking at ways to make operations more effective, he said.

Councilmembers didn't like Kloke's proposal.

"When he said that, my guts tightened in a knot," Dallas Laird said. "I would never vote for that, just the way that was explained to me, to do that to these people -- the old and afflicted.... Can't you find something else to cut?"

Charlie Powell and Kenyne Humphrey said CATC is a necessity and not an amenity like keeping Fort Caspar Museum open year-round or keeping a swimming pool open.

Bob Hopkins said CATC is important for older residents, and will become more so as the population ages. "Times are tough, but I'd look at other options."

Council is scheduled to vote on the budget at its meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

More From K2 Radio