Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Taber handibus in jeopardy

Taber handibus in jeopardy

Written by Garrett Simmons
Wednesday, 24 March 2010 13:19

It might be less handy for seniors to get to where they want to go in the near future.

That is because the future of the Taber Handibus is very much up in the air. Jeannette Payne, the secretary-treasurer of the Taber Handibus Association, said recent events have conspired to put the operation of the bus in jeopardy.

According to Payne, the association has been informed by the Alberta government the Town of Taber will no longer be receiving a transportation grant. That means the association will not be receiving operating funds from the town. Coupled with the fact the handibus also lost the support of the Horizon School Division (which total $50,000), as the bus is not transporting any special-needs Horizon students to school this year, the financial position of the association is at a critical level, she added.

Payne said the budget for the handibus is about $60,000 per year, and added about $10,000 to $12,000 is taken in per year from fares.

As a result, Payne added the association is applying for an operating grant through the Community Initiatives Program (CIP). As a result, the association is seeking letters of support from the community, along with financial donations to help keep the bus afloat. Just as importantly, Payne added members are also needed to sit on the association’s board.

“We’re desperate — we’re going to loose two members, voting members, very soon,” said Payne, who added the board currently has six members. “If we don’t have it (a board), we’ll loose our member society status.”

As a result, a meeting has been set for March 30 at 7 p.m. in the Blue Room of the Taber Community Centre to discuss the association’s
situation, which has become increasingly bleak over the last few months, much to Payne’s disappointment.

“We were doing so well for the last two years and then, all of this happened.”

Should the handibus not receive more funding, or should the board not be able to come up with enough members to survive, the handibus would face the prospect of shutting down, something Payne added would negatively impact seniors.

“Senior citizens are not going to have the service that is the low-cost value for them,” she said, and added some low-income families in Taber also benefit from the handibus in special circumstances, along with seniors age 55 and over and those with special needs.
At this point, Payne added there is about $12,000 in the bank account for the handibus, a total which will not last long without additional support.

The CIP grant would total anywhere from $30,000-$35,000 she added, would have to be matched through either volunteer hours, in-kind donations and financial contributions.

Payne said the association is also willing to put advertising on the bus to raise extra income.

But it could all be moot if March 30 does not drum up some more interest in the association and its board.

“It is absolutely necessary they come to the March 30 meeting, so we can come up with some solutions,” said Payne, who added another complication has also risen for the handibus.

Earlier this month, on March 10, the handibus collided with a school bus early in the morning east of Barnwell.

The handibus was a write off after the head-on collision, according to Payne. She added the association is now waiting for its insurance company and the RCMP to wrap up their work before anything further will be known, and if the bus can be replaced.

For more information on the meeting, writing a letter of support or donating to the association, contact Payne at 403-223-4609 or the handibus dispatch number at 403-223-2224