The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and Mt. Juliet city officials are sparring over costs of operating the Music City Star commuter rail service.
The RTA claims that Mt. Juliet has not paid its operating contribution since 2014.
The Lebanon Democrat reports that RTA staff members plan to meet with Mt. Juliet officials to discuss how the shortfall could affect Music City Star service in the city.
“We really don’t want to do anything punitive to Mt. Juliet, but it’s become an issue because this is an ongoing problem,” Sumner County executive Anthony Holt told the local paper. “We’re not asking them to pay more. We’re asking them to really contribute their fair share.”
The problems in Mt. Juliet come as Nashville Mayor Megan Barry is pushing plans for a proposed $6 billion regional transit project to be phased in over 25 years. Plans call for adding commuter trains in Middle Tennessee. Currently, the Music City Star is the only commuter rail service in the area.
Music City Star service runs from Lebanon to downtown Nashville and has stations in Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, Martha, Hermitage, Donelson and Riverfront Station.
Holt said Mt. Juliet has the largest ridership but pays the least. Mt. Juliet annually budgets around $30,000 for the Music City Star, about $25,000 less than Lebanon and $20,000 less than Wilson County, according to the Lebanon Democrat.
Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, who also serves as RTA vice chairman, said a conflict arose with Mt. Juliet “around the station and the use of that.”
Hutton acknowledged that the county also neglected its financial obligation at one point.
The RTA ended bus service in Brentwood after the city did not pay its share. But RTA CEO Steve Bland said the situation in Mt. Juliet is different because “there’s an investment of federal funds in the fixed asset in the city of Mt. Juliet.”
Bland said there would be public hearings before any changes in fares or service.
Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin said the city has had to focus on Mt. Juliet infrastructure projects, according to the Lebanon Democrat.
“The city of Mt. Juliet does contribute to RTA via all maintenance, upkeep, repair and emergency services to the train station/depot,” Martin said. “In past years, the city also contributed an additional annual $30,000 contribution to the RTA beyond our annual dues and bountiful in-kind services, but those contributions have been shifted in recent years to more pressing local infrastructure needs throughout our city.”