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Working hard to drive down the debt: People’s Transit director shares agency’s message

Modified: Wednesday, Feb 15th, 2017


People’s Transit Executive Director Rose Lee talked about services the agency offers to residents of Huron and Beadle County at Monday’s Beadle County Republican Women luncheon. PHOTO BY ROGER LARSEN/PLAINSMAN


HURON — People’s Transit, a private, nonprofit organization that has delivered riders to their destinations since the 1970s, is working to climb out of a $70,000 debt.

Public transportation agency veteran Rose Lee came on board as executive director last spring to lead the effort.

The buses provide a service that members of the Beadle County Republican Women agree is a valuable one for people living in the city and throughout the county. Lee addressed the GOP women on Monday.

People’s Transit drivers log about 276,000 miles a year in and out of Huron, or 765 miles a day. Last year, they provided 97,000 rides, or 271 a day. Of the total, 200 per day are kids going to and from school.

The agency got its start more than 40 years ago.

“It started about the same time that I started an organization in Iowa in 1975,” Lee said.

Transportation services are available to anyone in the community, for trips to medical appointments, school, shopping, to jobs or for recreation.

Recreation?

Lee smiles when she gets that question, as she did recently from a city commissioner.

People’s Transit has contracts with local day care centers and often gives the kids rides to the library or to tours of local places like the fire stations. There are programs with the YWCA as well, and with the Nordby Center.

“And so those are some of the things that we consider recreational,” Lee said.

Buses run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Early passengers include people who need to get to dialysis appointments, and those getting rides late in the afternoon are often going home from work or after school programs.

“We provide service for parents that are working, getting kids to and from school, and also after school programs so we can get them from the school to their home,” Lee said.

People’s Transit receives funding from the city of Huron and Beadle County.

It also gets $110,000 a year in Medicaid funds to pay for low income people to get to medical services in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Mitchell, Watertown and Brookings.

The buses also pick people up in surrounding communities like Wolsey, Alpena, Iroquois and Cavour.

“We try to get out and help those people that are still living in their homes in those communities that need to come into a major city for programs,” she said.

Income is from fares, contracts, contributions and state and federal dollars. About half the annual budget of about $900,000 comes from federal money targeting rural elderly programs.

“That money has to be matched 50-50 and so for every dollar I get from the federal government, I have to match it by a dollar,” Lee said.

The Medicaid funding qualifies as part of the federal match, but not the fares people pay when they get on the bus.

“It brings the cost of our program down,” she said of fares, “but it doesn’t match our federal dollars.”

Money also comes in via contracts between People’s Transit and day care centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“So we go out and try to put together as many contracts that we can,” Lee said.

In recent months, she has also been successful in selling advertising space on bus windows.

Each new bus costs $71,000 to purchase. People’s Transit can use federal grant money toward that, but 20 percent of the total must come from the local area.

Last July, the agency took delivery of a new bus that was made possible because 20 percent of the total cost was paid by American Bank & Trust, which has a contract to advertise on the vehicle.

“We’re looking in the future to do that again,” Lee said.

For the complete article see the 02-14-2017 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-14-2017 paper.


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