2017-05-19 / Front Page

Village considering options for senior transportation


Based on discussions from the Board of Trustees down to subcommittees and now the Recreation Commission, the village will attempt to provide senior transportation to key facilities: the new senior center, the library, and the Garden City Pool, at some point in 2017. But the process has taken a few turns, none of them leading to either a contractual agreement or the purchase of a designated municipal vehicle, yet.

Kevin Ocker, Garden City’s department head for Recreation and Parks, said he has had meetings with the village’s Senior Advisory Group and as evidenced at Board of Trustees’ meeting there has been continued discussion on the possibility of a new service. Last fall at a meeting Trustee Theresa Trouvé,

Garden City’s deputy mayor, was reporting on an idea for the village to lease a Honda Pilot 7-passenger SUV for around $220 a month and provide seniors transportation when then-Mayor Nicholas Episcopia interrupted and asked her to present an official recommendation and a some facts on prices, possible taxi company participation, usage and ridership. Over the past eight months she has not been given an opportunity to speak on the issue more at a trustees’ meeting during routine updates, and a recent change in format lends less updates and comments from trustees and especially the village’s executive staff during the twice-monthly meetings. Residents questioned the breadth of what is being presented from the staff, and now an issue with multiple public comments and requests at meetings comes back into focus after remaining dormant in winter.

On Wednesday, May 3 when his Board of Commissioners of Recreation and Cultural Affairs (Recreation Commission) gathered at the new Golf Club Lane Senior Center, Ocker said there seems to be a desire by the Board of Trustees to have the Commission talk about and investigate the option further.

“They have asked if the Commission would take it on in the context of ‘what interest level is there to provide any limited transportation for seniors to this facility and possibly the village pool?’ without saying if that would be provided by an outside service (taxi or van company) or this department – we are not even there yet. But we have been asked to look at it, do a little work and try to get some data on what demand is really there,” Ocker explained.

Recreation Programs Director Sandra Young had retrieved a few of the Rec. Departments’ mailing list for village seniors, those involved in programs or memberships of any kind. Ocker says feedback from Garden City households is crucial to planning any endeavor.

“Providing there is no objection from Rec. Commission members our staff will put something out and we will at least test the waters to see – are we talking about a need for 50 to 60 people on a daily basis, or are we looking at a half-dozen people daily that would actually use transportation service?” Ocker said.

The fact that the Recreation Department has been handed the task of investigating this now, taking up the month of May and leading into a summer season when senior residents could be enjoying the village facilities if they were aided by transportation has irked a prominent community member. Joe Leto of Seventh Street, a member of the Garden City Retired Men’s Club, the village’s Senior Advisory Committee and transportation subcommittee, says there should not be any restrictions placed on the transportation initiative related to the number of seniors who would use the service each day, whether that totals six or sixty seniors.

“The only reason anybody would want to know the number should be for the size of the transportation arrangement Garden City gets – if we need a shuttle bus or a big bus. But it shouldn’t matter how many people need it. the fact that they (the village administration and Rec. Commission) knows that residents need it should be sufficient. Would they make a survey when they consider how many people would use the new restrooms at the swimming pool? Do they make a survey where they consider how many people would use the athletics fields if we change them to turf? No, the village does not make surveys and instead they hire consultants and waste a ton of money and they do not have a good product in the end anyway. People in Garden City do not go to the pool because they can’t get to the pool, and they aren’t able to go to the fields and watch the games at Community Park if they aren’t able to get there and watch them,” Leto said.

He says there was a list at the front table of the senior center, for senior residents to sign “if you know know someone or you or someone you know would use senior transportation, are you interested.”

“I think we already did that and I don’t know why they disregarded that list,” Leto says.

The next correlated aspect becomes the cost. Commission member Michael Ryder commented that perhaps if transportation were available to all seniors, it may become “an arduous task” if the thought among those who can drive becomes ‘why bother, instead take the village transport’ all around Garden City. Joe Leto, 98, agreed with Ryder’s concern.

“I agree with that thought 100% but that’s been the case throughout history and throughout every faction of life. Something will always happen that is not proper. That is not the issue, the issue is to help the people of Garden City that need transportation. If you help nine of ten people in the village and one person abuses it that should not be an issue – I am surprised that this is even a question in the mind of somebody who should be thinking about the benefit of residents,” Leto tells the News.

During a school district meeting on the high school’s starting time in Garden City, held on Monday May 1, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen quoted the price of a new school bus at roughly $145,000. Leto does not believe that the village should be encumbered by any cost that high. He says the suggestion Deputy Mayor Trouvé made last fall at around $220-$240 per month would equal roughly $2,600 per year, a definite advantage for Garden City to pursue with minimal investment. Leto says the school district routinely sends students out to play sports games 100 miles away or more at a cost to taxpayers, using a district school bus.

“If there’s 20 kids in a bus they can spend $800 or $900 to send them to games. Here we have seniors waiting around and for $800 or $900 they would probably make due for the transportation cost, including gas, of six months. I do not think the cost to the village of what it will take should be a major issue. Of course if a $2,600 cost could solve the problem, why would even be talking about it” Leto asks.

Young, speaking at the Rec. Commission’s May 3 meeting, noted that should this ride service be approved it leads into conversations of frequency of running transportation; should the seniors receive rides all day or only at certain times of day?

In Leto’s opinion there should be on-call transportation, nothing resembling a local bus schedule “with a bus floating around Garden City with nobody in it just because it was supposed to leave afternoons at 3 p.m.,” he explains. Leto says it is ridiculous to prohibit people with scheduled bus arrivals or departures.

The senior transportation committee, consisting of Leto, Kathleen Auro and Trustee Trouvé had gone as far as to contact local taxicab companies for price quotes, as Ocker once suggested. On May 3 Ocker acknowledged that a Recreation subcommittee has been discussing the options for well over a year. “Each time we think we have a direction….we talked with taxicab companies and we are not certain that is the best way to go, although they are in the business of transportation already so initially it made sense to me. Maybe it can be subsidized,” Ocker told the Commission.

Holding proper controls falls on the village and insurances are another factor. Today, Recreation is only on the verge of finding out levels of interest and “what to expect.”

“It is important to provide seniors transportation. We have great programs and great facilities here and if we can expand the reach to the community, I think we should be doing that,” says Ocker.

Leto concurs, saying the transportation will increase the use of Garden City community facilities all around. But he’s concerned about apparent stagnation.

“My question is ‘what is the purpose of learning the prospective quantity? What is the difference? There are people that need it. So what, if only 20 people respond that they need it the village is not going to do it? They can’t say that. Now we have a new mayor (Brian Daughney) and this has been turned over to the Recreation Department, but the Recreation Department is starting off where the transportation committee ended,” Leto said.

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You know what would be great,

You know what would be great, a GC trolley bus. It could provide free/discounted rides to Seniors and also bring people to the downtown and home (close to it at least) so they could enjoy the restaurants without having to worry about driving.

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