The student driving service has faced financial concerns since last year's contract renegotiation with the Lawrence Bus Company.
Lawrence bars and a local beverage distributor soon may be helping to ensure the safekeeping of Kansas University's Saferide service.
KU Student Senate, the Lawrence Bar Assn. and McDonald Beverage Inc. are discussing possible sponsorships for Saferide, a KU On Wheels service that provides free late-night transportation.
Saferide has been in financial difficulty since a contract renegotiation last year with the Lawrence Bus Company bumped total funding needs from $80,000 to about $105,000.
Saferide is currently funded through April. In the coming weeks, KU's Student Senate will consider whether to tap its reserve account for the funds to keep the service running through the end of the semester. A bill that would have accomplished that was tabled last month so that senators could examine other options.
Whitney Black, a KU junior and student senator preparing a presentation for the next meeting of the bar owners' group, said operating funds could be exchanged for display space on Saferide cars.
Black estimated that 75 percent of calls for rides come from bars or parties, and that bar owners have expressed interest in sustaining Saferide. Black said such outside funding options would simply be more agreeable than raising student fees or charging for the service.
``It's a good service for bars because it keeps people off the streets who've been drinking,'' Black said. ``The fact that it's in financial trouble is worrisome.''
Rick Renfro, owner of Johnny's
Tavern, 401 N. Second, agreed.
``I would love to help out,'' Renfro said. ``It's one of those things that needs to be done.''
Other interested parties include McDonald Beverage Inc., 801 E. Ninth, the local Anheuser-Busch distributor. On Monday, the firm's president, Greg McDonald, met with student senator Molly McNearney, KU sophomore, to discuss the issue.
McNearney said she hoped to eventually attract interest from the beer giant's international headquarters in St. Louis.
``We'd like to help sponsor it if we can,'' McDonald said, adding that his main concern was whether ``the university feels that it's appropriate to receive money from a beverage company.''
Scott Kaiser, KU sophomore and coordinator of campus transportation, said concerns were raised by the Campus Transportation Board after outside sponsorships became a possibility.
``We're very open to sponsorships,'' Kaiser said. ``We don't want to get ourselves in a situation where the purpose of Saferide is seen (only) as a way to get people home from bars.''
He said the board would agree to a message of responsibility, as in a ``think before you drink'' campaign.
The service runs daily from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. More than 18,000 students used the service in 1997. Students called from locations as diverse as downtown bars and Watson Library.
-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is email@example.com.