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Senior transportation in jeopardy

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Special to The LaRue County Herald News

Rising costs and shrinking government assistance is endangering the senior transportation program ran by the Central Kentucky Community Action Council.

Lynne B. Robey, who was hired as executive director in January, said last program year, the costs for the program were double the reimbursement rate.

“Central Kentucky Community Action Council, Inc. is no longer able to operate any programs in this manner,” said Robey. “We feel a deep commitment to the seniors; however, we can no longer jeopardize the financial status of the agency.”

CKCAC is a nonprofit organization, established in 1966, that provides services to about 9,000 families, including 20,000 persons of low income in an eight county service area that includes Breckinridge, Grayson, Hardin, LaRue, Marion, Meade, Nelson and Washington Counties.

CKCAC spent about $90 million since 2008 to provide transportation, senior meals, head start, weatherization and energy assistance. More than $4 million was spent on benefits for low income families since 2011.

“We have worked hard … to review all of the programs we operate to prevent further financial losses as have occurred over the past years,” said Robey. “Financial losses have come mainly from transportation and day care services. We have been forced to make hard decisions – decisions that we do not take lightly. We know that these decisions affect our own friends and families. The three day care centers that we formerly operated have now been closed. Our head start Program is phasing out transportation due to cost. The senior transportation program is also in jeopardy.”

The transportation program started in 1975.

“Times were different then,” said Robey. “Gasoline was cheap, wages were low, and there were state and federal funds to cover all of the operational costs….Now, the cost of transportation is unpredictable, with fluctuating gasoline prices, changes in employee benefit packages, and the shrinking of federal funds.”

CKCAC operates 38 vans and buses with an operational grant from the Department of Transportation Delivery. It subcontracts to operate nonemergency medical transportation that pays $1.50 per mile with additional reimbursement for wheelchairs.

“The general public transportation fee is $6 each way up to 10 miles, with trips over 10 miles at $1.50 per mile. All rides must be scheduled by 3 p.m. the previous day. We provided 62,367 rides in these categories in our fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013.”

According to CKCAC’s reports, 25 LaRue County senior citizens rode a total of 969 trips.  

In the past, CKCAC has contracted with the Lincoln Trail Area Development District to provide transportation for persons over 60 to senior centers and grocery stores. This is the third year of the three year contract cycle and the contract is limited to a 5 percent increase per each year of the cycle, said Robey. The trips were reimbursed at a unit cost of $6 per one way trip. The grant required a 15 percent match, so the actual reimbursement rate was $5.10 per one way trip for each of the 10,275 senior trips that were provided last year. The suggested donation from the senior riders was $1 each way and totaled $4,043 for the year.  

“Most of our senior riders come from outside the town limits, with the average one way trip being about 16 miles,” said Robey. “Most of our vehicles get about 16 miles per gallon, at $3.50 per gallon.”

The agency is left with $1.60 per trip to pay for the driver and all of the other costs associated with the program, including employee benefits, tires, insurance, and maintenance.  

“Anyone who owns and operates a vehicle can tell you how this scenario played out,” said Robey.

The agency will request a significant increase in the unit cost per trip for the grant period that begins July 1, 2014.

“We are currently exploring an option that would enable us to resume operation of the senior transportation program,” said Robey. “If the senior ridership would increase to five persons per trip, this would allow us to possibly break even. The problem is that the riders are so widespread. We are asking the seniors and their families to help us by asking other seniors in their area if they would be interested in riding with us. Increased utilization on fixed routes is a solution until we can rebid the unit cost to a more realistic level.”

CKCAC employs 236 people.

For more information about the transportation program, contact Robey at 270-692-2136, or 332 Hood Avenue, Lebanon, KY.

The agency accepts tax deductible donations.