RENSSELAER — Sharon Colee, executive director of Jasper County Community Services, approached the Rensselaer City Council on Monday to request funding to meet the matching cost for a new vehicle.
This vehicle will be part of JCCS’ local public transportation service for those who are disabled or struggling with mobility.
“We are the only public transportation in all of our county,” Colee said. “We provide all the transportation from the north to the south and outside the county, if it’s deemed necessary.”
Colee said she and her colleagues are “amazed” at the county’s number of transportation needs, which she said continues to grow. By the end of this month, they expect to have more than 2,000 one-way passenger trips — and 75 percent of their transportation service is provided in Rensselaer.
She said these needs range from taking individuals to school to helping them meet medical or social appointments, or just getting to local retailers when necessary.
“It reaches a broad spectrum of our community,” Colee said.
Funding for the transportation service is provided by various means, however vehicle replacement is always the responsibility of the agency. Colee said that, this year, the facility had the opportunity from the state to purchase a low-rise minivan better suited to help people in wheelchairs or mobility devices to ride more comfortably.
“Most of our individuals that are in that capacity often are hard of hearing, (and) it’s fearful a little bit, riding the lift sometimes, especially for our elderly.”
The vehicle was estimated to cost $48,000, the match portion of which is the facility’s responsibility. Though the facility expected the vehicle to come later this fall, they soon learned it was arriving early. There would be no problem, according to Colee, for the vehicle to go “right into service” as soon as it arrives.
Staff members from the facility have been raising money to meet the match cost.
“Our city, our county has wrapped their arms around this project,” Colee said. “They know the need. It’s been vailidated.”
As of Monday, Colee said the facility was only $546 away from their goal. She asked that the Rensselaer City Council supply $500.
One council member immediately made a motion to approve the $500, before another suggested that the council simply approve the total remaining cost of $546.
“We would be happy to give you a complimentary ride as well,” Colee said with a laugh.
The council then voted unanimously to approve the funds for the vehicle.