Friday, August 07, 2009

Council support gives boost to struggling transportation society - Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser - Alberta, CA

Wetaskiwin Times Advertiser - Alberta, CA

Council support gives boost to struggling transportation society
Jerold LeBlanc
Staff Writer
August 6, 2009

The future of the Wetaskiwin Community Transportation Society seems a little brighter thanks to the support of the local city council.

A motion, unanimously accepted at the July 27 regular meeting, called for council’s support for the society’s application for an Alberta Community Initiatives Program (CIP) grant for as much as $75,000.

The recommendation was made following a meeting between city alderman Mark McFaul and Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson.

The society recently held its annual general meeting and members are looking at fundraising opportunities for the continued operation of the service, which costs $10,000 a month. Expenses taken into consideration include vehicle maintenance and fuel costs.

The society operates the Wetaskiwin handivan, which offers a transportation service on a regular basis for local seniors and people with physical disabilities.

The funding, explained McFaul, would help cover future operational costs, but cannot be used for existing operational expenses.

“We have mentioned funds for a new initiative, or new type of operation.”

McFaul added the society plans on meeting this week, but the matter was brought before council now in an effort to get the provincial grant application ball rolling.

Ald. Gail Taylor said she understood that any CIP grant over a certain amount has to have matching funds from the community.

McFaul said those funds are already in place.

City manager Tony Goode said the criteria for applying for CIP grants has changed, and he didn’t believe the society’s initiative had matching funds.

Goode said although the criteria had changed, CIP grant officials still require a letter of support by council.

McFaul told council that as of right now, the society has sufficient funding to carry on the operations of the service, but it was crucial to get the grant application started as soon as possible.

Ald. Barry Hawkes asked what would happen if the society doesn’t receive its CIP grant funding.

McFaul said the society would have to look at alternative ways to raise funds, something it is already pursuing.

“We will do everything we can to keep it going,” said McFaul.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

New transit bus a boon to Stony Plain seniors, disabled - Spruce Grove Examiner - Alberta, CA

Spruce Grove Examiner - Alberta, CA

New transit bus a boon to Stony Plain seniors, disabled
Posted By Cory Satermo
Aug 1 2009

Seniors and disabled individuals can now look forward to new transportation picking them up after Stony Plain council approved the purchase of a para-transit bus at a council meeting on Monday July 20.

The vehicle will replace one of two transit buses currently in use.

The vehicle being replaced, a 1999 model has close to 400,000 km tallied over its lifetime.

The purchase amounts to $68,565 including GST and comes from 1st Bus Centre, a company in Edmonton.

The cost is much lower than the $140,000 budgeted, which sparked Coun. Robert Twerdoclib to question whether administration should be praised for finding a bargain or encouraged to budget more accurately in the future.

“The price was excellent, but the budget wasn’t. Remember we’re going into budget again in only a few months from now and I certainly hope that pencils will be sharp in the budget process,” Twerdoclib said.

Administration replied that the budgeted amount was based on a previous purchase and changes in the industry have brought prices down.

According to a report presented to council, each vehicle travels 3,500 to 4,000 km a month.

One requirement council had to consider before purchasing the new vehicle was to find a model with a larger seating capacity than previous vehicles.

The existing unit has room for eight able-bodied individuals and two wheelchair passengers.

The new bus must be fitted for a minimum 10 seats for the able-bodied and four wheelchair position as per request by bus coordinator and Westview Health Centre and their Adult Day Program.

The vehicle is expected to arrive six months after being ordered.

An application for $40,170 of grant funding has been applied for with no notice yet if it has been accepted.

Baanff Canmore cure for seniors transportation

Regional cure for seniors’ transport woes
by Hamish MacLean
Banff Crag & Canyon

The call for volunteers went out last week for volunteers to drive seniors and people with disabilities between communities, or into Calgary, for medical appointments: the regional pilot project spans the MD of Bighorn, Canmore and Banff.

“What we’ve done is we’ve had all the best practices from all the different programs — because there are lots of volunteer driver programs both provincially and nationally . . . it seemed like a really good fit for what the gaps are out in this region,” Emily Smith, community services coordinator for the MD of Bighorn, said.

Smith said that this program is a way to formalize what’s going on informally already.

Those in need of trips into Calgary for medical reasons do at times experience feelings of guilt for burdening those who help them get in and out of the city.

The new system will ease the burden of responsibility on those drivers who already offer their time to take seniors into the city; it will also reduce the burden on seniors or those in need of rides.

Sue Smythe has been informally running a program in Banff through the Banff seniors society that works in a similar fashion.

“I continually get calls from the health unit, because they don’t have anything set up there, or seniors phoning me, asking me if there’s somebody who can drive them in — but unfortunately the three drivers that we have, they’re not always available.

The summer will be spent recruiting volunteers and dealing with some of the logistics for the pilot program, which organizers hope will be ready for a fall launch.

Each municipality hopes to get 10 volunteers in place.

“It’s been a challenge for our municipalities for a number of years, because there is nobody that does transportation specifically for these medical needs and we do have a lot of seniors and others who are having to access specialized services in Calgary and that can be anything from cancer treatment, to dialysis to special conditions and specialists,” Smith said. “We know that that’s an issue, and often, they may still have a vehicle, but they aren’t in a position to drive.”

In some of the more urban places you can get shuttle programs, Smith said. “Our feeling is, in the future, there may be the ‘math’ to allow for it, but there aren’t enough — there are a lot of people that need the service, but there aren’t ‘enough’ people that need the service that would make it, really, cost effective to offer something like that.”

The costs of purchasing a vehicle, to insure it, to hire a driver and to coordinate schedules at this point she said is prohibitive for the communities.

“This is kind of like a baby step,” Smith said. “We’re finding one way to address the need, we’re going to pilot it. We’re pretty hopeful that it will be successful and if at some point in the future it makes sense and we can find a way to offer a different kind of service then we would explore that.”

Nobody funds transportation, it makes sense for the communities to combine their resources and for the time being to offer as much as possible.

Round-trips from Exshaw will cost $40 and $50 from Banff. The costs are designed to simply cover the ever-increasing cost of gas for drivers.

“You really have to do this on a cost recovery basis,” Smythe said. “Nobody can really afford to do this out of the goodness of their hearts.”