DOT axes elderly transport funds - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

DOT axes elderly transport funds

April 28, 2003

Albany-- The Southwest Georgia Council on Aging provides transportation for thousands of people. Just last year, they made 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.

"No I wouldn't say any old driver can do this, you have to be trained," said SOWEGA Driver Terry Burks.

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," said Burks. "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 they've been providing 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 even dead. Are there drivers going to be able to deal with this situation?"

"That's the key is SOWEGA RDC and vendor work out these issues so every issue is addressed," said Transportation Planner Brad Sheffield.

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 6:00PM by dave.miller@walb.com