The Strathmore-Wheatland Handibus Association is at risk of shutting down if the organization is unable to secure stable funding.
Previously, the organization was operated under the Town of Strathmore— an agreement that had been in place since 2008, and ran until earlier this year when they regained their autonomy.
During that period, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was in effect, which granted the association $175,000 annually. This funding was used for operating expenses.
The funding currently being requested of the town would be put towards operational expenses such as gasoline, insurance, and wages, much as it was within the previous agreement.
“Without dedicated funding from the Town and the County, our reserves will sustain the Handibus service as it is now for no more than two years,” said Lorraine Hammermeister, vice president of the Handibus Association.
“These are subsidized rides. We lose money on every ride. Anybody who is on a fixed income, they cannot afford it otherwise.”
According to Hammermeister, ridership fees for the handibus service only encapsulate about one third of their operating costs.
Though the team is optimistic, and has long-term goals for the service— such as the ability to provide weekend and after-hours rides, the immediate concern is to still be operating two years from now.
At the moment, the association services 181 registered clients across Wheatland County. Pre-COVID-19, Booth said the association was making on average, between 5,000 and 6,000 trips a year, but did not specify the population of the former client base.
“We want everyone to know that we are a society, and as such, we are governed by the Society Act. We are a nonprofit organization and we rely upon funding,” said Hammermeister.
Association President Alice Booth said the client base for the service has been steadily regrowing and the team is averaging roughly 100 trips per month again.
According to Booth, more than half of the trips made by the handibus are for medical purposes.
“Our vision is to provide an affordable, sustainable transportation service within the boundaries of Wheatland. That’s what we stand for, and that’s what our operation is,” she said.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times