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Progress of public transportation project discussed at meeting

By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer

Gateway Community Action is putting the final touches on a grant application for a public transportation system to serve Mt. Sterling and Montgomery County.

March 1 is the deadline to apply for a 5311 grant through the Kentucky Dept. of Transportation. Recipients will be announced July 1, said Leah Kohr, Gateway’s director of community initiatives.

If approved, the system could be up and running this fall, Kohr said.
The funds would be used to purchase what is likely to be a handicapped accessible minivan and pay for a driver, a substitute driver and a dispatcher.

The 5311 program is intended to provide financial assistance for the support of public transportation services, which are open to the public on an equal basis in areas outside of an urbanized area of less than 50,000 population, according to Gateway.

The funds can be used for the costs of transit planning activities, transit operations and purchase of capital equipment or facilities to aid in the provision of transit services in rural and small urban areas, as well as provide funds for state-level administration, Gateway says.
Some of the project’s stakeholders attended a public meeting Monday morning at City Hall to discuss its progress.

In attendance were Kohr and Rachel Perkins of Gateway, Tiffany Taul Scruggs from Sterling Health Care, Nicky Young and Laura Chowning from WellCare, Mt. Sterling Mayor Al Botts and Jeffrey Liles from Mound Marketing and the Sterling Food Coalition.

Young told the Advocate that WellCare, one of the state’s managed health care providers, began discussing the transportation system last August in an effort to provide additional resources for the social needs of its most vulnerable populations and get stakeholders involved.

Botts said previously that providing public transportation to the community’s elderly was one of his first goals as mayor.
The group is part of a community impact committee that has been working to bring public transportation to Mt. Sterling and Montgomery County since last summer.

Other partners who have been involved along the way include Carissa Adams and Allison Napier of the Montgomery County Health Dept., Conchita Stockton and Charlene Engle of Gateway Community Action, Mt. Sterling Police Chief Terry Landrum, Janet Kenney of the Sterling Food Coalition, Sandy Romenesko of the Chamber of Commerce and Sister Janet Carr from Saint Joseph Mount Sterling Hospital.

WellCare is serving as a facilitator for the committee.
Under the current plan, Gateway will provide transportation services three days per week.

One day per week of the service will involve a set route yet to be determined.

There is currently a survey out in the community to gauge what businesses and shopping centers the public is most interested in having included. Liles said about 300 surveys have been filled out thus far.
Some of the interest has focused on local grocery stores, the hospital and medical care providers, Kohr said.

Pick up will be scheduled two days per week, according to the plan. The service boundary includes all of Montgomery County.

Customers would to call and schedule a trip at least 24 hours in advance. Riders would be picked up and delivered to their destination at a cost of $1 per trip, or $2 per round trip.

This would be a first come, first served scheduling system and there is no guarantee that the requested time can be accommodated, Gateway says.
The city, county and businesses may decide to buy transit tickets in advance to give to those who cannot afford the fee. Customers may also buy transit tickets in advance to avoid having to carry cash each time.
Only exact cash or change will be accepted on the van prior to a trip, Kohr said. Medicaid transportation is outside the scope of the state transportation grants, she added.

The van will not be available for rent, Kohr said, but groups can schedule together.

Kohr suggests that anyone using a wheelchair have a caregiver to provide assistance. She added that parents/guardians of children will have to provide car seats and buckle them in.

There will be limited space for shopping bags, Kohr said.

Kohr said the goals of the program are to:
• Assist in meeting the transportation needs of transit-dependent people and to enhance access to health care, shopping, education, employment, public services and recreation;

• Assist in the maintenance, development, improvement and use of public transportation systems;

• Encourage and facilitate the most efficient use of all federal funds used to provide passenger transportation in non-urbanized areas through the coordination of programs and services;

• Assist in the development and support intercity bus transportation; and
• Provide for the participation of private transportation providers in non urbanized transportation to the maximum extent feasible.

The money, if awarded, must be matched 50 percent. The city of Mt. Sterling, Montgomery County and various community businesses have committed financial support. WellCare has also offered financial assistance.

Kohr said the transportation dept. told her that in-kind contributions would be accepted.

She said Gateway would like to have a phone line devoted solely for the service, which will be called MoCo Transit. Gateway also plans to start a Facebook page to update the public on developments.

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