Decision looms on senior buses in Grafton, Rutland townships
Rutland Township never had to shuttle their senior and disabled residents around because Grafton Township always did it for them -- for free.
But after six years, budget woes in Grafton Township have Supervisor James Kearns threatening to cut rides to and from Sun City Huntley unless Rutland Township pays Grafton $24,000 by November to keep the service going.
"I don't see why Rutland ... couldn't cover some costs," said Marge Homuth, a 92-year-old Sun City resident who rides the bus once a week to buy groceries or to get her hair done. "I don't know what the real answer is, but it would seem they could cooperate a little bit."
Rutland leaders plan to discuss and vote on the matter Tuesday.
If the consensus is to continue, the board will schedule a special hearing to amend next year's budget so it includes senior and disabled transportation, Rutland Township Supervisor Margaret Sanders said.
"I've always felt that it would be a nice thing to have for our seniors, but I can't do it unless the board is in favor of it," Sanders said. "I'm a senior myself -- I live in Sun City, but I happen to have children in the area. They'll do anything to help me out ... but that's not true for everyone."
Neighboring townships have handled transportation of seniors and disabled residents in a variety of ways. Here are some examples.
Hampshire -- Burlington
Hampshire Township operates two, 13-passenger buses and one minivan that shuttles its seniors and disabled residents to township activities and to doctors' appointments within a 25-minute radius, Monday through Friday. Longer distances require board approval and buses typically don't go unless there are eight riders.
As part of an intergovernmental agreement, neighboring Burlington Township pays $3,000 a year for Hampshire to drive its senior and disabled riders around as well. In turn, many Burlington riders also donate a few dollars toward the service every time they get on the bus, Hampshire Township Supervisor Jody Remakel said.
Hampshire residents approved a referendum in the 1990s that created a senior services levy, allowing the township buy the buses and create activities for seniors. But the busing program has only been in place since July because in previous years, there wasn't enough demand to justify the service.
That all changed this spring, after the township created a slew of senior events and began marketing them to the community, creating a need for the buses, Remakel said.
"We had the assets. We had the buses. So rather than have them sitting in the garage and taking up space, we wanted them moving," Remakel said.
In August, 70 people rode the buses, a figure that doesn't include doctor visits, Remakel said -- five of those riders were from Burlington. By the first week of September, 65 people had signed up to ride the bus for other activities, she added.
"We just had a group go to Oregon (Illinois) for a river cruise," Remakel said. "In November, we are going to Schaumburg to go see the Legacy Girls."
About 80 percent of the riders hail from Hampshire, rather than Burlington, Remakel said. Hampshire budgeted $25,000 this year to pay its six part-time drivers, senior programming and bus maintenance. Burlington authorities did not respond to requests for comment.
Ride in Kane
Ride in Kane, is a program used in Elgin, Campton, Dundee, Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, Kaneville and Aurora townships. It is an option Rutland Township is considering as well.
In it, the county partners with Pace Suburban Bus to run a dispatch center that sends taxis, Pace vans and buses to registered disabled and senior riders for trips around Kane County. Rides are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The customer pays $3 per ride for the first 10 miles and $1.50 every mile thereafter. The participating township picks up the rest of the tab, which varies according to distance. The main benefits to this program are that townships aren't on the hook to cover vehicle gas and maintenance or to train and hire drivers.
"Transportation is an expensive venture, but it's needed," Elgin Township Supervisor Annette Miller said.
Nunda Township runs its own bus service exclusively for disabled and senior residents living within its boundaries, and takes them wherever they need to go, within a 20-mile radius, said Mike Lesperance, the township highway commissioner.
The service, in place since 2002, runs Monday through Friday and costs the township $75,000 a year. It includes the van's fuel costs, a part-time driver, vehicle maintenance and insurance. Between 40 and 45 people use the service each month, mostly for doctor's appointments, he said.
The township charges riders $1 each way and officials are considering raising the fares because the program is losing money -- the township pays for the service out of its own budget and from a $15,000 annual grant it receives from McHenry County.
"Government's not here to make a profit and this particular program is to help those people that can't help themselves," Lesperance said. "But it sure would be nice to see it come close to breaking even and how we're going to accomplish that, I'm not sure yet."