Will the wheels continue to roll?

A bus owned and operated by High Prairie Golden Age Club to transport seniors in the community remains up in the air as Big Lakes County studies a request for more funding. The club said it would cease operations if additional funding from the county is denied.

County ponders more funds for bus

Richard Froese
South Peace News

A bus service for seniors in the High Prairie area has hit another speed bump as Big Lakes County considers a request for more funding to keep it running.

At its meeting Feb. 26, council directed administration to provide options to further fund the bus, operated by the High Prairie Golden Age Club.

Council turned down a request to fully fund the service for $44,500 at its Feb. 12 meeting. A delegation led by Howard Greer, who chairs the transportation committee for the club, asked for the money.

“It should be a big concern,” High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Don Charrois says.

Since the previous meeting, several committee members discussed the issue with him.

Charrois says members told him a lot of seniors use the service and rely on the bus to get around town.

“They say if they don’t get more funding, they won’t [get to use] the bus any more,” Charrois says.

It was the same message Greer gave to council. He adds the bus would stop operating at the end of February without more money.

However, that had not been decided by Feb. 29, club Golden Age Club president Alicemary Olansky says.

She notes the board of the club plans to meet in the first week of March to discuss the bus service and funding.

Last year, Big Lakes provided the club with an annual transportation grant of $5,000, which was cut from $10,500 allocated in previous years, according to Heather Nanninga, director of corporate services.

“This service is very expensive to operate,” Nanninga says.

Council is committed to keeping the bus on the road.

“We should keep working with them,” Charrois says.

“We need more talks happening.”

Council will fund the program as the county has in previous years, North Gilwood – Triangle Councillor Ken Matthews says.

One councillor adds seniors need to be supported with that type of service.

“We should do more for our seniors,” Prairie Echo – Salt Prairie Councillor David Marx says.

“We give a lot of funding for recreation.

“We have to get our priorities more in tune.”

Funding from Big Lakes was reduced around the time the county started the Big Lakes Rural Public Transportation Program that marks its first year of service April 2.

The county purchased a 12-passenger 2018 Ford Starcraft Allstar van with wheelchair lift for about $85,000.

The program is operated by Big Lakes County Family and Community Support Services.

Charrois suggests a committee be formed to discuss future support of the seniors’ bus.

“Maybe we can come up with something in the next two months.”

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