Community dealing with uncertainty, frustration as North Fork Area Transit ceases operations
NORFOLK, Neb -- While some in the community retain hope, North Fork Area Transit held what could be its final ride Friday evening.
North Fork Area Transit announced Thursday that it would be ceasing operations Friday at 6 PM due to a shortage of funds, with transit vehicles returning to the organization's parking lot Friday evening.
Norfolk city officials released a statement on Friday commenting on how the suspension will affect riders in the city.
The city called the situation “unfortunate” and “maddening”.
Officials also said in the statement that users of the service are reaching out to them about how important the non-profit organization has become in the area.
Also in the statement, the city said “We are working with North Fork Area Transit’s mobility management team and community partners with the hope of continuing the most critical services during this period.”
North Fork Area Transit said in a Facebook comment on Friday that it needed "at least $300,000 raised to keep going.”
The suspension of services comes as authorities continue to search for former general manager Jeffrey Stewart, who is accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars on a company-issued credit card.
Initial court documents stated that Stewart was accused of embezzling approximately $740,000, though documents in a recent search warrant estimate that Stewart made a total of $750,000 to $1,000,000 worth of unauthorized transactions.
Court documents allege that Stewart used a company credit card for purchases at casinos, flights, meals at area restaurants, home goods, podcast services, and more. His card has since been frozen, and investigators believe he has left the country.
Last month, the Norfolk City Council met in an emergency session to discuss paying $88,155.59 to North fork Area Transit in order to make payroll.
According to North Fork Area Transit’s legal counsel, there was no cash on hand to handle financial obligations, in this case, payroll. The payroll was due the day the emergency meeting was held, requiring city funding to meet their needs.
News Channel Nebraska has reached out to city officials, the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce, former transit employees, and North Fork Area Transit board members about the current situation, but other than the city's emailed statement, no additional comment has been provided.