NORFOLK, Neb. (KCAU) — After the former general manager embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars, The North Fork Area Transit (NFAT) has reached its fundraising goal of $1 million to restart the city’s buses. This comes after the Johnny Carson Foundation donated $500,000.
Early January, North Fork Area Transit was no longer able to operate due to a lack of funds. Since then, the organization has been raising money to get back to work, with donations from 57 organizations plus individuals.
“I think it’s a great thing, the community needs it,” said Mark Nuttelmann, returning NFAT bus driver.
“The Johnny Carson Foundation put up a $500,000 match grant, and different businesses came up, social service agencies and then a lot of individual donors,” said Bob Bourne, mobility management team with the Nebraska DOT.
To get the North Fork Area Transit operational again, Bourne said he has only one word to describe the process.
“Chaos is the word. Several board members spent probably close to 50%, 60%, 70% of their week just trying to raise the money, and they were successful. They really get the credit for pulling this off,” said Bourne.
With Norfolk’s transit system down for roughly two months, bus drivers were without a job for some time. However, now that the NFAT is starting back up, they’re hoping to reconnect with previous drivers.
“We know several have taken other jobs, so we’re gonna be in the process now of calling them and finding out who’s coming back,” said Bourne.
Since the transit system shut down, Norfolk brothers Aaron and Shane Clausen have helped the community by providing rides from and to important appointments. To operate, the Clausen brothers hired two bus drivers, one of them was Bourne.
Bourne said when he first started driving for the Clausens, his passengers would ask him similar questions about NFAT.
“‘When’s North Fork transit coming back, we cannot wait for it them to come back, we really need them.’ They’ve been thankful for us to take care of them in this way, but they’re waiting for transit to open back up because they’re open more evenings and they’ll be open weekends too,” said Neil Schlecht, returning NFAT bus driver.
The announcement has many former bus drivers excited to get back to work.
“I’m so happy that the good people of Norfolk and the sponsors, we need this bus service. For me I could be retired but I love my job so much and I think I need the riders as much as they need me,” said Jim Compton, returning NFAT bus driver.
The NFAT hopes to have their buses back up and running in a couple of weeks after much needed maintenance to the vehicles.