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Sauk County benefitting from Gov. Tony Evers' investment in rural transportation

Jonathan Shipley Baraboo News Republic January 15th, 2023

A bus can improve a life. A bus can improve the lives of many. The Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Sauk County knows this. The bus they have, from 2011, transports elderly and disabled residents throughout the county.

The bus takes those who would have a difficult time getting around otherwise to medical appointments, to shopping centers, to the movies.

The bus takes people out and about, getting them to their much needed services while also getting them out of social isolation. Studies have found social isolation can be as harmful to one's health as smoking cigarettes.

The current Aging and Disability Resource Center of Sauk County bus is a 2011 model with high mileage and escalating maintenance costs. The organization will be receiving a new bus this summer.

The bus used by ADRC is old. It has more miles on it than it should have. Maintenance costs for the vehicle continue to rise, and with more frequency, the longer it’s out on Sauk County’s roads.

That's about to change. The ADRC is getting a new bus by way of a 5310 grant. The grant is a supplemental competitive grant, using federal funding. Without it the ADRC could not provide all the transportation services needed in Sauk County for disabled and elderly residents.

The grant funding comes by way of Gov. Tony Evers' recent investment into rural transit. Evers, together with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), announced recently that, statewide, 44 agencies that provide transportation services for seniors and individuals with disabilities in rural areas of Wisconsin will benefit from more than $5 million in state and federal funds in 2023.

The ADRC transportation unit is committed to providing individuals age 60 and older and adults with disabilities with affordable transportation options through the Taxi Subsidy Program, Volunteer Driver Escort Program, and Fun-Day Travels.

The Aging and Disability Resource Center of Sauk County is one of those 44 agencies.

In a statement, Evers said, "Whether it's getting to and from work, seeing family or loved ones, or visiting the doctor, every Wisconsinite -- regardless of their age, ability, or ZIP code -- should have access to reliable, affordable transportation."

The grants are being provided, in part, by the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Enacted in November 2021, BIL provides WisDOT with an increase in funds for the 5310 Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Program for five years, beginning in 2023.

Sauk County was given $115,998 for the fixed route and volunteer driver programs. The state will spend $110,156 on a medium side load accessible bus.

"We are thrilled to be receiving a new bus," said ADRC director Susan Blodgett. "The bus we will receive won't be a large bus but it will be for 12 to 15 riders and be handicapped accessible."

The operating assistance grant funds will come quarterly, after the state received ADRC's ridership and financial reports. Approximately 85% of the funds will be used to pay drivers. This includes both staff drivers and volunteer drivers. Volunteers are reimbursed at the business IRS rate, rounded down to the nearest penny, currently 62 cents a mile, from and returning to the driver's home. Some volunteer drivers, Blodgett mentioned, drive more than 2,000 miles a month.

"I honestly do not know what we would do without these wonderful people who are paid mileage only and not for a minute of their time." She continued, "They are truly selfless and devoted to Sauk County."

Most people outlive their ability to drive by 10 years. "For folks in our rural communities," Evers said in a statement, "we know that providing and having access to these essential services can often be a challenge."

The remaining 15% of the funds will be used by the ADRC for bus trips. Two days a week the organization offers "fun day travels." They may take individuals to a movie. Shopping buses travel to Madison, from time to time. Blodgett said, "For the person in Reedsburg who cannot drive, the opportunity to go to Walmart or an Aldi's is appreciated."

The residents of Sauk County will soon be able to appreciate it more in a gleaming new bus.

Link to article:

Submitted by Damian Barta, Spring Green


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