Sylvan Lake council was updated on the Town’s Community Bus operations at this week’s meeting Monday evening.
Council heard that the bus is 28-years-old and is difficult and expensive to maintain to an acceptable standard.
According to council notes, “The FCSS department manages the bus and as part of their ongoing planning, plus the discussions through the Community Social Master Plan – Transportation Section, did organize a meeting of community bus users and the groups in attendance expressed a willingness to participate in fundraising for a new bus.”
Ron Lebsack, community services director, made a presentation to council about the history and current usage of the bus.
According to Lebsack, the Town acquired the bus from the Seniors Association originally. Today, there are a number of issues with the vehicle, including that many parts are unavailable when needing repair, it breaks down about six times each year, it won’t start in weather colder than -20C, it’s not wheelchair accessible and heating/cooling is almost non-existent.
The bus does provide 2,364 rides each year, and serves a number of local groups including the Red Hatters, Scouts, Pathfinders, Brownies, Youth Centre/Flipside, the Yuletide Festival and the Sylvan Lake Sparks among several others.
User groups must be a volunteer or a not-for-profit organization.
There are also a number of youth services that the bus also is used for, including School’s Out programs, the Tim Hortons Children’s Ranch, evening drop-in programs and the ‘Ment to Matter’ Mentoring Program as well.
In the presentation, Lebsack said that an example of a new community bus would be the Star Craft Allstar 2016 Paratransit Bus which has room for 20 passengers and two wheelchairs. It also has installed safety equipment and space on side panels to add sponsoring organization logos among other features.
It would cost $95,000.
Looking ahead, there could be expansion of services for the community bus service as well, including the potential to provide more than 8,000 rides each year and open up access to more volunteer/not-for-profit organizations in Sylvan Lake.
The presentation also showed that the service provides, “A place of belonging and connection for those who attend community groups, an opportunity to bridge the transportation gap as our community continues to grown, a reduction in social isolation for children, youth and families and a chance for children and youth who face various barriers to experience new and exciting activities.”
Ultimately, council notes also pointed out that FCSS staff will work directly with any community service groups, bus users and other to facilitate a fundraising initiative.
“We will be returning this back to council with some sort of recommendation or a plan as part of the 2018 budget deliberations,” said Lebsack, adding there are currently three different options being explored which involve a financial cap on the Town’s involvement as well.
These included $20,000 to be allocated from general operating reserves; $20,000 to be given pre-budget approval from the 2018 budget or $20,000 to be allocated from the Taxi Subsidy Program to the community bus.
Council received the Community Bus Information Report as information.