WEYBURN – The Weyburn Care-A-Van Society is facing financial hurdles with the rising costs of vehicles and fuel, and dwindling number of sponsor agencies, while maintaining the only public paratransit service available in Weyburn.
Longtime board member Myron Fletcher, who represents the Rotary Club, relayed some of those challenges in an interview on Monday, noting one of the service clubs which been a member agency for many years, the Quota Club of Weyburn, has now disbanded.
Quota’s representative on the Care-A-Van board is Myron’s wife June, who still has a year left in her two-year term as president of the Care-A-Van Society, and she will finish out that term.
The member agencies currently include the Weyburn Legion, the Weyburn Kinsmen, the Young Fellows Club, and the Weyburn Rotary Club, each providing a member to sit on the board.
Fletcher noted that the Rotary Club initially started the Care-A-Van Society in the 1970s, and the member agencies at one time included the Lions and Elks clubs, both gone, and now the Quota club will be gone.
When Quota disbanded as of mid-May, they gave the Care-A-Van Society a donation of $7,330, which will help maintain that club’s funding for a couple of years yet.
Part of the funding is a payment based on ridership from the province, which is paid to the City and is in turn passed on to the Care-A-Van Society, “so they’ve been very good to us that way,” said Fletcher.
There are revenues generated by the use of the bus and the van. The bus provides a ride for $10 a trip, and the van can be rented for $85 a day plus 80 cents per kilometres, with the fuel paid for by the Care-A-Van Society.
“We may have to take a look at that if the prices of fuel keep going up,” Fletcher noted.
As the bus is wheelchair accessible, a number of students who need transportation during the school year are provided a ride to and from school.
The bus, a 2017 model, can handle up to four wheelchairs and three other passengers, or more passengers if there are fewer wheelchairs, while the 2014 van can hold two wheelchairs plus three other passengers.
The bus is driven by Sandra Montgomery, who has been the driver for about 30 years now, while the van is driven by the renter of the vehicle.
The van has a ramp that folds down to accommodate wheelchairs, and instructions are provided for operating the van, if needed.
“We’re starting a fundraising drive to replace the van. With COVID, it’s been hard to do any fundraising,” said Fletcher, who noted there are no grants available to buy a new van. For the bus, the province will provide a $50,000 grant towards its replacement.
In addition, new vehicles are hard to get, and affordable vans are even harder to find, noted Fletcher.
With the Quota Club dropping off as a member agency, Fletcher said the organization would like to see new member agencies join.
“It doesn’t have to be a volunteer group, it can be a company,” he said, adding they would also like to see residents have more awareness of the transportation services they provide for those with mobility issues.
They also sell advertising spots on the bus to help with the ongoing expenses of operating the bus, he added, and volunteers to help with the organization are always welcome.
To arrange for a ride on the bus, or to rent the van, all arrangements go through Montgomery, who can be reached by her cell at 306-861-2219.
As the only public paratransit service in Weyburn, he said, “it fills a fairly big need in the city of Weyburn.”