Transportation program gets green light

Commissioners approve a scaled-back version of a new public transportation system proposed by Thrive Allen County.



October 7, 2020 - 10:12 AM

Jessica Thompson, director of development at Thrive Allen County, speaks with Allen County commissioners about a new transportation program. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Commissioners have approved a scaled-back version of a new transportation system for Allen County, which will provide rides for essentially anyone to anywhere.

The version of the program they approved included purchasing a 14-passenger vehicle along with creating one full-time position.

The cost for the program in its first year will be $33,419, and then decrease to $26,571 in the following year.

The initial proposal developed by Thrive Allen County was more extensive, and also included the purchase of a minivan and two additional positions at a first-year cost of $55,133.

Commissioners left open the possibility that the program might be scaled up closer to the original plan after a year.

Commissioner Bruce Symes said he was “willing to dip his toe in,” regarding the program, though he and the other commissioners suggested they wanted to start out slowly.

As commissioner Jerry Daniels put it, he wanted to “start off as economically as we can.”

Despite the program being scaled back, the new transportation initiative should serve a much larger population than the current Senior Bus, and for only a small fee.

Trips within Iola are slated to cost $2, trips within the county, $4, and out-of-county will be determined based on time and distance.

Jessica Thompson, director of development for Thrive Allen County, said that local churches, residents, medical facilities and more were already looking forward to the new program.

EMERGENCY communications director Angie Murphy shared the news that Allen County has made it past the initial round to be eligible for a grant that would provide storm shelters to its unincorporated communities.

She said the county should be notified by the first of the year if the grant had been obtained, which would provide shelters for Mildred, Carlyle and Petrolia.

Perhaps even better news, however, was that Allen County has been awarded a grant in the amount of $119,995 via the CARES Act to support emergency operations center (EOC) capabilities.

Murphy said these funds would be used to purchase a projector system, televisions, computers and more to make improvements to the county’s EOC.

HOSPITAL administrator Elmore Patterson provided commissioners an update from Allen County Regional Hospital/St. Luke’s.

He said he is evaluating hospital services around the county, looking to make improvements, and noted he was especially interested in improving care for women.

Patterson also mentioned how he wanted to maintain clinics in Humboldt and Moran, in order to help people cut down on travel expenses.

When asked when the hospital would reopen its doors to the community for meals in the cafeteria, as well as bring back volunteers, Patterson said he wanted to do so as soon as possible, but could not take such steps at this time due to COVID-19.

DURING his weekly report, public works director Mitch Garner said crews have been chip-sealing near Gas, LaHarpe and Moran.

He also noted that recent repairs made to Nevada Road had not lasted long due to heavy truck traffic, and so he and commissioners agreed it would be best to return parts of the road to gravel for the time being.

Commissioner Symes said he was concerned about damage to vehicles and potential wrecks caused by the patches of rough road, so Garner said he would look into installing temporary warning signs in the area.

Garner also mentioned that he’d put out bids for a new tractor for the county, and said that unfortunately four additional vehicles (three trucks and a blader) were in need of repairs.

IN OTHER news, Steve Prasko of advantage computers presented bids to commissioners to install equipment in the courthouse assembly room, with the goal of improving the quality of meetings broadcast to the community.

Commissioners did not move forward on the proposal for purchasing items like microphones, speakers and software, but were informed that they already had $5,000 in CARES Act monies to dedicate towards the project.

Prasko also shared diagrams and bids for improving security in various courthouse offices.

Clerk Sherrie Riebel said the county had received a grant in the amount of $5,967 to help with election costs from the Center for Technology and Civic Life.

She also noted that election drop-boxes had arrived. One will be installed north of the courthouse and the other at the new ambulance station in Humboldt.


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