New company, same service for seniors? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

New company, same service for seniors?

April 28, 2003

Albany-- New transportation for Senior Citizens in Southwest Georgia.

SOWEGA Council on Aging Director Kay Hind says, "We are just trained to work with older people." and she is worried the new company isn't prepared to handle the needs of the elderly.

The Southwest Georgia Council on Aging provides transportation for thousands of people. Just last year, they made nearly 100,000 trips--dropping off meals, taking people to the doctor, and driving folks to the senior centers in 14 counties.

Now, the Department of Transportation is taking away the money and putting it towards the new Regional Transit Program. State planners say the same services and more will be there for seniors, but others doubt it.

"No I wouldn't say any old driver can do this, you have to be trained." Terry Burks isn't any old bus driver. He shuttles seniors where they have to go--he knows each by name and if they need special assistance, "They definitely know who I am I think they feel comfortable when I come get them."

"I was really shocked they had given our contract and our money to a for-profit business." SOWEGA Council on Aging director Kay Hind says she found out last week that a state hired contractor will take over the transportation services SOWEGA has been providing people sixty and older for 30 years. Hind is concerned the for-profit contractor doesn't know what they are getting into, "Often when you go to pick someone up you find they have fallen or need help or they are maybe even dead. Are their drivers going to be able to deal with this situation?"

"That's the key--it is SOWEGA, RDC and the vendor working out these issues so every issue is addressed." Regional Transit System spokesperson Brad Sheffield insists there will be no difference in services--or even drivers--when the changes take effect July first. And that will be a good thing for seniors who are used to seeing the same friendly face when they need a ride.

The 29 drivers who work for the Council on Aging will get first priority for jobs under the new contractor. The new Regional Transit Program takes effect July first.

Posted at 4:24 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com