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City council hears public concerns about Disabled Transportation Society changes

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Ahead of a June 6th meeting between the City of Grande Prairie and the Disabled Transportation Society, riders are looking for answers. Seventeen people spoke to city council members on Tuesday about what could be done after the society’s abrupt switch to non-essential services on June 1st left some members without rides.

Both Adrianna Vandendungen and her daughter use DTS services and now that it’s not around she says it’s like she’s lost her link to the world.

“The bus has literally saved my life because staying home was just way too much. Just to be able to go out to Walmart, to go to Tim Horton’s to visit… the bus has been like a lifeline for us.”

Many others shared the same sentiments saying they rely on the service for daily activities like going shopping, going to see friends and family and just getting out of the house.

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On May 29th, DTS put out a statement saying it would be scaling back services because of a lack of funding and support from the city. It stated that multiple requests for adequate funding to effectively run the service has been met “with resistance and hostility.”

In response, the City says it has given the organization $996,300 in 2019, through grants and money for fuel and bus maintenance costs. It adds funding has not been reduced since it was first approved in 2018. By comparison, the City has increased its funding since 2016 when the organization says it received $567,000 in funding and around $200,000 in the form of gift-in-kind.

Despite that, DTS board members still maintain there was a funding decrease on the city’s part. It has declined an interview with MyGrandePrairieNow.com.

“In 2018, DTS had a deficit so they were not able to make their budget,” says Mayor Bill Given. “At the time of city council’s budget discussion council approved providing additional funding from our 2018 surplus basically fronting that money to say, ‘yes we will help you get into 2019.’ We took that money from the 2018 surplus and reduced their 2019 amount by that amount.”

Out of the meeting, the City agreed to make sure the society would continue to get its funding at least until the end of June as long as it returns to its normal operating schedule. City staff were also asked to find alternatives for accessible transportation should DTS shut down completely.

The City and DTS now plan to meet on June 6th to discuss what the future could look like for the service. Taking into consideration what Given heard at the meeting, there are already a number of alternatives he plans to bring to the table.

“That means everything from other not for profit organizations, private providers on contract and any other variety of methods. There are also a number of facilities that have their own vehicles.”

DTS board members were not willing to comment after the meeting but say they intend to speak on this matter at a later date.

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