BUCYRUS — In January, there will be changes coming to public transportation throughout the county.
For 24 years, the Crawford County Council on Aging has provided transportation to service to all residents in need by appointment. The new plan will change that up a bit.
“The Council on Aging has been providing public transportation services for 24 years, which means our transportation has been available for anyone of all ages in Crawford County,” said Cassie Herschler, Executive Director of the Crawford County Council on Aging. “In 2017, our main focus will be providing transportation to seniors 60 and older and individuals with disabilities. So the difference is we will no longer be a Public Transit provider.”
The gap will then be filled with SCAT (Seneca-Crawford Area Transportation).
Michael Felter, board president of Seneca County Area Transportation, said in June that a request came from Ohio Department of Transportation after the Council on Aging announced it would offer its services only to senior citizens starting this year.
“Council vans had been carrying other riders when space was available, but demand had exceeded the capacity of its 11 vehicles. More than 1,100 riders, many of them seniors, had to be turned away in 2015,” Herschler said.
Felter said that the board is proud that the state came to them to provide transportation to Crawford County residents of all ages. After meetings with Crawford County Commissioners and members of the Crawford County Partnership for Education and Economic Development, an agreement was reached to provide transportation to all Crawford County residents regardless of age or income level.
Residents will be able to utilize the transportation to and from a multitude of destinations including work and training, school, medical and counseling appointments, shopping, and beautician and barber appointments, to visit a loved one and even to an out-of-town airport.
SCAT Treasurer Dave Shelton said ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation) has pledged assistance in the venture and said there is no long-term commitment from SCAT. If the partnership does not work out, it can be dissolved.
The agreement will not reduce funding for the Crawford County Council on Aging. The plan is to have eight Council on Aging vehicles transferred to SCAT and kept in Crawford County, primarily for public transportation. The council on aging will receive eight new buses, primarily for the elderly. Both agencies would be allowed to operate vehicles in Crawford County and both would be able to transport riders of all categories.
“The majority of the individuals (seniors 60 and older and individuals with disabilities) we transport now is the population we will be serving next year in 2017. So, are biggest hurdle is getting the word out to the folks we are currently serving that we will still be here next year, and we will still be available to provide their transportation,” Herschler said.
Details on fees and scheduling are still being ironed out.
The Crawford County Council on Aging will continue to schedule rides for residents throughout the county, who call 419-562-3050 or 800-589-7853. SCAT can be reached at 419-448-7344.
Reach Gasuras on Twitter: @kimberlygasuras