CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council has allocated $65,000 to purchase a bus to transport senior citizens who participate in Community Services programs.
The request was made by Community Services and approved by the council Oct. 5. The money will come from the town’s undesignated fund balance.
The 14-passenger minibus will bring seniors to and from programs at the Community Services building, located at 343 Ocean House Road, and to Community Services-sponsored outings in greater Portland.
According to Community Services Director Russell Packett and Adult/Senior Program Coordinator Kathy Raftice, having the bus will allow more seniors to attend activities and will mean more new programs can be offered.
“Having our own 14-passenger bus would allow us to eliminate the shortcomings of both of our current options, improve the overall experience of existing programming and open up a whole new world of leisure opportunities targeting Cape’s senior population,” Packett and Raftice said in a memo to councilors.
Community Services has primarily been using a school bus to transport seniors and has also used a van service. According to Packett and Raftice, the school bus is problematic because the steps are too steep for some seniors and the seats are too narrow. Also, Community Services needs to schedule its programs around the school bus schedule.
Using a van has been expensive, Packett and Raftice said.
According to the memo, the minibus would travel 5,000-10,000 miles a year and would have a lifetime of 10-12 years. The $65,000 expenditure would cover the cost of purchasing the bus. The bus would be stored at Public Works, where it would be serviced and maintained like all other municipal vehicles.
Offering programs to seniors and making sure they can attend them is important, Packett and Raftice said.
“A common problem associated with aging is a lack of social inclusion or participation which can lead to depression and isolation,” the memo stated. “The additional activities we would be able to offer will positively impact the lives of our aging population.”
Community Services became a municipal department in July after being part of the School Department for 10 years. The switch happened in response to an increase in seniors using the services.
The town’s Senior Citizen Advisory Committee reported to the Town Council earlier this year that seniors wanted to be more involved in Community Services. When Community Services became a municipal department, the senior citizen committee merged with the Community Services Advisory Committee.
Town Manager Mike McGovern also created a panel of senior citizens who meet monthly with Packett to discuss their priorities and whether their needs are being met.