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Heated City Council Meeting Leads To Durham Mayor Leaving With Police Escort

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DURHAM, N.C. — A crowd of about 250 city bus riders temporarily shut down a city council meeting here Monday, angry over proposed cuts to the bus system and leading the mayor to retreat to his second-floor office with a police escort.

The meeting -- which one council member said was the most contentious he'd seen in more than two decades -- was adjourned for about 20 minutes until several extra police officers arrived. After resuming the meeting, the council refused to take more public comment about the bus system, setting off another loud round of complaints.

Mayor Bill Bell told the crowd that the council would resume public discussion of the issue June 12.

"Obviously the city council has to go back and relook at the proposal," Bell said.

The disturbance began as city budget director Julie Brenman tried to explain a new proposal of modified cuts to the Durham Area Transit Authority. Under the proposal, routes running between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. would be the only routes affected, running hourly instead of on the half-hour.

Other people at the meeting protested cuts to the city's longevity bonus for veteran employees, lack of pay raises for city workers like fire fighters and police officers, and funding for various nonprofits.

"It's people like me that work full time and go to school fulltime that depend on the 30-minute service," said Nikki Harris, whosaid she rides the bus daily to her job at Southpoint Podiatry andto classes at Durham Technical Community College. "If the moneywas going where it was supposed to be going, we wouldn't have aproblem."

The DATA bus system serves about 13,000 people a day.

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