Transit officials planning to resume operations

Efforts to re-establish operations at North Fork Area Transit (NFAT) continue, and those efforts are moving in the right direction, according to Board Vice President Lacy Kimes.

Kimes said she and other board members are working day-by-day to get the NFAT back on its feet.

“The entire board of directors has all hands on deck,” Kimes said.

In addition, NFAT officials are working proactively with the state’s mobility management team to lay the groundwork for revised operations in anticipation of getting the buses back on track.

“We will have our TeleLift service with nine drivers. The NiteLift service will only be active Monday through Friday and the ForkLift will run a ride,” Kimes said.

He added that regional routes that provide workforce transportation for Tyson, Lindsay Corp. and Great Dane, among other employers, will return to normal operations when the time comes.

Once NFAT is able to resume operations, the proposed services would be restarted gradually over the first year.

According to the organization’s website, TeleLift is a pre-scheduled, 24-hour service that takes riders from curb to curb. NiteLift is an on-demand curb-to-curb service for riders who need an afterhours ride. ForkLift is a regular bus line service.

As reported in the Daily News, the Johnny Carson Foundation has agreed to donate $500,000 towards the restart of the transit organization, with the only stipulation being that NFAT must also raise an equal amount from other sources in the community to match the donation. for a total of $1 million to raise.

However, the donation is not guaranteed. If NFAT fails to raise the entire $500,000 in matching funds, or if it fails to raise the money by Tuesday, February 28, the donation may be cancelled.

Kimes said $390,000 still needs to be raised to reach the $500,000 goal. She said that one of the stipulations for the donation was that the funds raised by NFAT come from local sources.

“When we met with the Johnny Carson Foundation, they wanted to know what it would take to get the buses back on the road,” Kimes said. “We don’t want to just cover the debt; we want these services restored.”

Kimes said the money raised by the NFAT and the Carson Foundation donation represent the funds needed to pay off the organization’s debts and make public transit services sustainable again; however, this number does not directly correspond to the amount of money allegedly stolen by former general manager Jeff Stewart.

The NFAT fell on hard times and eventually ceased operations, following Stewart’s alleged theft. County officials said at least $740,000 was stolen from the NFAT, although Kimes said the exact extent of Stewart’s theft was still being determined.

Since the theft allegations surfaced, federal, state and local law enforcement officials have been searching for Stewart, who is believed to be hiding in Texas or Indiana. There has also been speculation that Stewart may be on the run in Mexico, although law enforcement agencies have not confirmed this.

“We have to get those buses back on the road; it is vitally important. We have thousands of people without transportation right now,” Kimes said. “We understand the need our community has for public transportation. Even though our doors have closed, that need hasn’t gone away.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the NFAT as it raises funds needed to resume services can visit the organization’s website at

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