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July 29, 2014

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Battle over Las Vegas area bus contract being routed through district court

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RTC general Manager Jacob Snow answers questions from reporters outside of RTC’s administrative offices during a media showing of the new ACE buses and line Wednesday, March 24, 2010. Regular service began Sunday, March 27, 2010.

As expected, the next round in the ongoing fight over the Las Vegas area's public bus system is scheduled to be in court.

Attorneys for First Transit have filed a motion asking District Court Judge Rob Bare to order the Regional Transportation Commission to award the contract to it. The court on Monday scheduled a hearing on the case for Nov. 16.

The battle for the contract, worth about $80 million per year for four to seven years, has been going on for about six months.

At a court hearing Sept. 16, Bare denied the same request by First Transit, but told the company to refile its motion and return to his court if the RTC failed to take action on the contract.

The RTC’s board, which has been split over the contract 4-4, failed to find a resolution at its Oct. 13 meeting and First Transit filed court papers within a week.

The contract has been the subject of extreme lobbying by two large multinational companies, First Transit and Veolia Transportation. First Transit, which currently operates the RTC’s paratransit service, submitted the lower bid for the contract.

But Veolia, which currently operates the bus system, has said First Transit’s bid is flawed and the whole process should be redone.

The contract was first awarded to First Transit by the commission in May by a 4-3 vote. That vote was later unanimously rescinded by the board after an opinion from the state attorney general's office said the RTC must have five votes to take action under the Nevada open meeting law.

Since then, the board has been split 4-4 on taking any action on the contract.

In the September hearing, Bare ruled that the original vote was valid, but he said the rescinding was also valid, so he refused to order the RTC to give the contract to First Transit.

Attorneys for Veolia successfully argued at the time that the courts were not justified in intervening while the RTC could still act.

But the board’s failure to act since then shows that the contract is in a total stalemate, First Transit said in the new court filings.

The contract was supposed to go into effect last month, but the RTC has extended the old contract with Veolia on a month-to-month basis, but that option ends in March, putting pressure on the RTC to act.

In addition, the Federal Transit Administration has told the RTC to do something or risk losing its federal funding.

“Taxpayers, consumers of public transportation, tourists, transportation workers, and the FTA are entitles to finality in the process that has now gone on for over a year without final resolution,” First Transit attorney Pete Gibson wrote in the new court filing. “Only the Court can provide that finality.”

Prior to the October board meeting, Veolia asked the state Supreme Court to intervene in the case, but the court immediately denied that request and said the District Court would have to act first.

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