Public transportation is a step closer to being restored in Meridian.
In late February, Meridian Transit System abruptly shut down due to staggering debts.
Since then the city contributed some money to help pay off some of the debts, and transit officials say they have now officially sealed the deal to hopefully prevent this from happening in the future.
"Actually Meridian Transit is gone, but transit service in Meridian is not gone," said Bo Hawkins, president of the Meridian Transit board.
Instead, Hawkins says the transit board has voted to join a regional transportation initiative called EZ Tag.
"That's as the East Central Transit Action Group and it's a combination of several counties: Smith, Neshoba, Leake ,Newton, Lauderdale,Jasper, but not limited to these counties," said Hawkins.
As part of this reorganization effort, Hawkins says consultants for Meridian Transit System are examining the best ways to restructure bus routes.
"A lot of the routes were outdated and old," he said. "We'll open back up with a more efficient route system. That's one of the main goals. Sometime within the next two weeks we should have this plan in our hands and start to work with Choctaw Transit, which will become the governing authority for the EZ Tag system and at Meridian Transit. We will work together to finalize routes and all the logistical planning that it takes to put a transit system in place."
Hawkins says this new partnership will ultimately expand public transportation service in Meridian in many ways and possibly lead to the rehiring of all 12 employees.
Hawkins said it's possible that 24 hours/7 days a week bus service will return to Meridian.
Because there are still many legal and logistical things that still need to be worked out, Hawkins says it will possibly be mid-summer before actual bus service starts.
"We'll open with a bigger and better transit system.," Hawkins said.
Prior to closing, Meridian Transit System had six part-time and six full-time employees. Currently, transit board members say roughly 80 percent of the agency's $65,000 debt has been repaid.