Created on Thursday, 26 April 2007 06:29
Last Updated on Thursday, 26 April 2007 06:34
By Erin Post
An official for the Green Mountain Transit Agency (GMTA) recently defended the organization's commitment to providing service in Moretown after a debate at Town Meeting called into question the benefit of funding the agency.
Tawnya Kristen of the Berlin-based GMTA told select board members at a recent meeting that the $945 the organization requested from Moretown at Town Meeting goes to match state grants the agency receives to provide year-round, volunteer-based driver services to residents who are elderly or disabled.
Currently, 10 Moretown residents regularly use the program to get to medical appointments, pharmacies, grocery stores and other locations, she said, up from seven people last year.
Customers are typically the most "transit dependent" in the community, she said, noting that sometimes, having the volunteer driver service available allows a person to stay at home instead of move into an assisted living facility.
"We're kind of the quiet network that steps in," she said. "We're there. We're just not loud about it."
All 23 towns served by the transportation program are assessed a fee based on a formula that takes into account the number of elderly and disabled residents living in town as well as the percentage of residents living below the poverty level.
Kristen said the money is used to pay for administrative costs associated with the transportation program, including background checks for volunteer drivers as well as dispatch and billing services.
Grants pay for 90 percent of the program's costs; funds from the 23 towns served make up the remaining 10 percent, Kristen said, adding that the agency requested the same dollar amount from Moretown this year as they did last year.
Residents may receive vouchers for the service if they qualify for Medicaid or elderly and disabled funds.
Drivers pick up participants at their homes at a specified time, Kristen said. Often, customers request a specific driver and form lasting friendships through the program.
"The relationships, I think, are to be really looked at as well," she said. "It's just interesting to see the positive effects."
"Fixed route" bus service that GMTA provides is not funded through the $945 requested at Town Meeting, Kristen said.
Those bus routes, including commuter buses to Montpelier and Burlington as well as weekend service to ski areas, are funded through rider fares and other sources independent of the Town Meeting funding request.
The "Snowcap Special," which stops at the Moretown General Store on weekends and holidays and provides service to Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, saw 24 customers board in Moretown from January through March of this year, she said.
The Moretown Select Board plans to discuss funding for the Green Mountain Transit Agency at their May 7 meeting.
At Town Meeting, voters made funding contingent on the select board verifying what service the agency provides to residents.