Representatives from the Indiana Department of Transportation and a not-for-profit agency met with local officials Friday to gauge interest in a plan to bring public transportation to Clay County.
Basil Weiman, executive director of the non-profit Child Adult Resource Services (C.A.R.S.), asked for the support of the Clay County Board of Commissioners in instituting a small-scale public transit system in the county.
Using state and federal grant money and a local match as start-up, Weiman said C.A.R.S. would provide affordable transportation to elderly and disabled Clay Countians at a minimal cost to local government.
"It's a win all around," Weiman said.
C.A.R.S. Transportation Manger John Bonomo said the organization singled out Clay County because of a strong demand for transportation among the elderly and disabled, especially to and from doctor or hospital visits.
The county's lean economy also played a role in its selection. A C.A.R.S. study conducted in 2002 reported 83 percent of people surveyed knew of someone with transportation problems. Of those, 46 percent were unable to get around because of the expense involved.
Under the proposed plan, two C.A.R.S. passenger vans-- accounted for in a start-up grant-- would transport the elderly and disabled to and from medical appointments and run a series of fixed routes to connect passengers to shopping centers and other points of interest.
James English, program manager for INDOT's rural public transit program, emphasized most of the cost of the program would be defrayed by grants, with county government shouldering $25,646.50 of a total price tag of $127,193.
Grants available to local governments could further defray the cost to the county, English said.
"This is a service you can obtain and not break your local bank," he said.
But the board of commissioners must act fast to get the program rolling in 2007.
English said INDOT's funding process for 2007 begins today. For the plan to proceed in Clay County, INDOT requires a letter from the commissioners confirming their interest in participating in the program.
A successful C.A.R.S. initiative in Clay County could lead to expansion in surrounding counties, Bonomo said. He indicated a strong showing here and in Vigo County-- also under consideration for a trial public transit program-- might foster an expansion into Parke, Putnam and Vermillion counties.