The Strathmore Handi-bus Association, an organization providing accessible transportation to residents of Strathmore and Wheatland County, will start operating independently as of Feb. 1.
Previously, the organization existed under the direction of the Town of Strathmore. But now, it will have full control over managing operations, including its employees.
The association is asking clients to reapply for the service, as their information cannot be transferred due to the provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The Handi-bus service is available for seniors 65 years of age and older, and for anyone who is disabled and those who are temporarily disabled with a placard, residing within the borders of Wheatland County, including Strathmore.
A new website (handibus.ca) was created for the association, through which clients can sign up for the service and where donations can be made.
The association’s new chair is Alice Booth. A new manager and dispatcher, Victoria Klassen, was also hired. The majority of drivers will remain as employees, according to the association.
The Handi-bus office will no longer be located at the town office; the association is in the process of acquiring office space, but for now, dispatching will be done from the bus garage, from Monday to Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
A fleet of six vehicles and one bus is in operation, with all COVID-19 protocols in place. The association is asking clients to respect COVID-19 health guidelines while using the service.
The Handi-bus will be insured with Wheatland County’s Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) insurance, through the Additional Named Insured (ANI) program. This change was made through a motion that passed unanimously 6-0, during the regular county council meeting on Jan. 12. Scott Klassen, Division 5 councillor, did not vote or provide comment on the matter after disclosing his marriage to the new dispatcher. The association will pay all insurance costs.
This move benefits both the association and the county, said Reeve Amber Link, during the county council meeting.
“RMA insurance is incredibly cost-effective, which also has indirect benefits to the municipality because it lowers the cost for the service they provide,” she said.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) will be brought to Strathmore town council for consideration, as the town will continue to support the organization financially. The association will also provide a forthcoming presentation to Wheatland County council.
If anyone has concerns about the Handi-bus, they may contact Jason Montgomery, who has been the town’s representative for the organization on council, (email@example.com or phone (403-901-7244). The Strathmore Handi-bus Association may be reached at 403-934-3418 or by message through its website (handibus.ca).
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times