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City says it’s not at fault for DTS funding woes

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The City of Grande Prairie is denying that a lack of funding on its part has caused the Disabled Transportation Society to cut its services.

In a release put out on Wednesday morning, the organization said a lack of funding and support from the city were the reason for the service cuts stating that multiple requests for adequate funding to effectively run the service have been met “with resistance and hostility.”

Mayor Bill Given says funding handed out to the organization has increased 26 per cent over the last few years including $615,750 in funds handed out in January through the 2019 Community Group Funding program.

“Over the past 10 years, the city has actually invested over $7 million into supporting the Disabled Transportation Society. I think it speaks to the level of commitment that past city councils have had as well as the commitment that this city council has had to ensure accessible transportation is available in Grande Prairie.”

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The DTS provides door-to-door transportation for more than 500 residents who are unable to use other forms of public or private transportation. It has 26 employees, nine buses and a budget of around $1.1 million.

As of June 1st, service will only be available to wheelchair clients who need it to get to and from work, school, and medical appointments. The DTS says in order to run fully it would need to see around $150,000 to $200,000 in additional funding.

This is not the first time the group has approached the city. Back in December 2017, it was looking to discuss having the city take over operations.

“This has been an ask for a couple of years to transition out of a volunteer board just because the level of service is not what it should be,” DTS Board Chair Barry Menard says. “We don’t have the funding for the level of service. The call on DTS services is growing and the funding is shrinking due to the size of the community.”

While Given says he will meet with the organization to discuss future options, taking over operations fully is not in the plans right now. The organization says it will not be accepting any new clients at this time but will honour contracts it has with some of the school boards as well as with the County of Grande Prairie.

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