Council has not only given the green light to the Handi-Van Society for an additional $20,000 to help keep its vans operational, it has committed funding for three years.
At its regular meeting, Monday, Dec. 8, council met with Harold Kenney and Barbara Patey to discuss the society’s request.
Earlier this year, council contributed $20,000 to the handi-van. The additional funding is to be earmarked in the 2015 budget.
Kenney told council that the society operates two vans, one of which runs with volunteer drivers. However, the van which is used in town requires a paid driver.
Kenney said the society is about $14,000 shy of purchasing a new van.
Council initially agreed to fund the van for $20,000, but after some discussion, decided to commit the funding during the duration of its term.
Coun. Paul Payson, who voted in favour of the motion, originally had concerns about committing the specified amount.
“I have no problem with funding it annually,” he said, adding he was concerned about committing $20,000 specifically, each year, and suggested the funding may need to fluctuate depending on the budget.
“I wouldn’t see the need for the money decreasing,” said Kenney.
The in town van, a 2012 GMC which has a lift and holds six passengers (two wheelchairs), was purchased by the Blindman Handi-van Society through government grants and a $20,000 donation from Rimbey Legion.
The society also owns a 2008 Ford van which is used for out of town trips.
Vice chairman Harold Kenney said the service has been around for close to 30 years and is very much needed.
“It is one of the very few non-profit (handi-van services) left,” he said. “We largely exist through grants and donations.”
User fares are reasonable; only $7 for a round trip in town and 55 cents a kilometer for out of town trips.
“Our fares help cover our operating costs, but we operate at a loss,” said Kenney.
Winter can be extremely busy for the handi-van.
“The coldest days can be our busiest days,” said Kenney. “We can be going steady all day. Medical issues are a priority and it is difficult for seniors to get around in the winter when there is lots of snow. It can be very treacherous.”
Volunteer drivers for the out of town van are on call for a week on a rotating basis.
and work a week at a time, and shifts run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Volunteers include Ted Evernden, Gene Shopiuk, Earl Jensen, Don Connell, Al Elliott and Harold Kenney. Wayne Colenutt is the paid full time in town driver.
Ponoka County has approved annual support of $20,000 for the operation of the handi-van with the understanding the town will match these funds.