INNISFAIL – The town’s aging handivan is back in service after a four-day grounding, but its operational days may still be short-lived as it’s expected council will soon be presented with a recommendation to buy an urgently needed new vehicle.
Early last week the deteriorating Innisfail Handivan, a 2004 Ford model with about 250,000 kilometres of use, was taken out of service after encountering an electrical issue. The handivan, pulled from out-of-town service last year due to mechanical issues, was back in local service on May 10.
Don Harrison, manager of the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion that operates the handivan, said the aging vehicle is fixed for the “interim.”
“It can go at any time. That bus is relatively old and it’s sort of on its last legs,” said Harrison, adding the issue was noticed when the driver applied the brakes and the backup alarm came on.
“When she (driver) was sitting on the road or by a railroad track with her foot on the brake the backup alarm was beeping,” he said. “If you were behind her what would you expect? She’s backing up, right? It was an unsafe feature so we took it out of service.”
During the four days the handivan was pulled off the roads, the town recommended to users to call Innisfail Associated Cab for alternative transportation. Harrison said using the town’s 47-seat Community Bus was not a viable option as there is no wheelchair access and it’s too large too navigate into tight areas.
Meanwhile, the town’s ad hoc Transportation Service Review Committee, established earlier this spring to review transportation needs for the community, is meeting at 11 a.m. on May 17 at town hall to discuss future handivan options.
Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, said the community and town council need to know what the current situation is for transportation needs, as well as the current status of the existing handivan.
“The nature of the review demonstrates there is some urgency to review the service,” said Becker. “The committee are the ones who have been tasked with the data information to make a formal recommendation to council, and I am going to be supporting the committee with their recommendation.”
Harrison, a member of the ad hoc committee, said he hopes the committee’s recommendation to council is for the town to purchase a new handivan, which could cost between $90,000 and $125,000.
“We have done assessments, we have a seniors’ population that needs it and the town has played with this for two or three years and now it’s time to make a decision,” said Harrison.
Earlier this year the town considered an idea to purchase three retired City of Red Deer buses for $2,000 each, but held off until other options were looked at. In the meantime, the town was told another community was in urgent need of the Red Deer buses and the town let go of its interest.
As for other transportation initiatives for the town, Karen Bradbury, the town’s community and social development coordinator, said she should hear within the next week or two on the application from the town and Red Deer County to be part of the new provincial pilot regional transportation program designed to give citizens of rural communities, including Innisfail and area, easier access to mid-sized urban centres.
Rural municipalities selected for the pilot program — ones within 50 kilometres of mid-sized urban centres — will be eligible to apply for a grant of up to $350,000 per year to support 24 months of service delivery.