Proposed society to offer transportation for seniors

Volunteer committee seeks funding to form new community non-profit society.

The District of Sicamous is seeking to re-route $5,000 in grant money to assist a group of transportation-focused community volunteers in becoming a non-profit society.

At its May 11 meeting, council received a presentation from Rose Foster and Chuck Jensen on behalf of the Eagle Valley Transportation Steering Committee.

Foster first provided some background, explaining the committee has taken on the task of assisting community members with the launch of a non-profit society that will provide transportation to residents of Sicamous and Electoral Area E. The proposed society’s mandate would is to “improve community inclusion and the quality of life by providing volunteer transportation to community members who self-identify their need for this service.”

Phase one in meeting this mandate is the launching of the society. Foster said it would begin with volunteer drivers who use their own vehicles.

“We will start building our society by focusing on the seniors as this group has been identified by the District of Sicamous as having a very high need for transportation,” said Foster, adding this would also meet one of the two goals of a $20,000 B.C. government grant for age-friendly community planning and projects. Those goals: “increasing accessibility compliance throughout the district and finalizing a new seniors transportation services plan so that it is streamlined, cost effective and sustainable.”

Phase two involves the acquisition of a vehicle for the society, preferably an electric vehicle, and phase three involves slowing expanding the fleet, phasing out the need for use of personal vehicles.

Foster and Jensen provided a list of expenses, totalling about $5,000, related to the process of becoming a transportation society. This includes $130 for the application process, $400 to top up the volunteer drivers’ insurance to include $5 million liability, $600 for promotional campaigns and about $3,800 for administrative needs including $800 for a laptop and $2,000 for four cell phones – one for the dispatcher, one for the driver and two additional phones that could be loaned to passengers.

Following the presentation, Coun. Todd Kyllo asked if the committee’s monetary needs might be addressed through the Shuswap Community Foundation. Jensen said they first have to be a society in order to apply to the foundation.

Coun. Malcolm Makayev suggested the $5,000 might come from the $20,000 age-friendly grant. District chief financial officer Kelly Bennett said it’s possible the funds could be reallocated provided approval comes from the Union of B.C. Municipalities which administers the grant.

Coun. Jeff Mallmes said he was OK with the request, but questioned the $2,000 cell phone expense. Jensen agreed that could be looked at and adjusted.

Makayev argued that if the $5,000 didn’t go to the local volunteer group, that amount and more would likely go to a consultant to set something up.

“I think council has to understand the importance behind this and how this has been addressed in other communities,” commented Mayor Terry Rysz. “We’ve taken this model from Fort St. James and there’s been comments at UBCM as to how successful this is. A concern was, of course, the taxi businesses and whatnot, but you work that out and I think there’s an avenue there where we can actually support the taxi services.”

Council passed motion to have staff approach UBCM to see if $5,000 from the $20,000 grant could be reallocated to initiate a steering society that would start a pilot project for transportation.