By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Safety concerns about the city’s senior van have prompted suspension of its services.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Ed Wildes, the city’s safety-service director, indicated that the van — with its rusted-away step and faulty heating and air-conditioning systems, among other issues — would run today as usual, then remain idle until further notice, pending a full inspection. If it’s not deemed safe, he said, the city will have it shut down. Wildes added that he made this decision upon council’s urging.
“We certainly don’t want to put anybody in danger,” he said. “We saw the conditions and felt it wasn’t road-worthy.”
The city hosted a public hearing before the council meeting with the intention to discuss its applying for a new 12-person van through the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Specialized Transportation Program. If the city is approved for the grant, the state would fund 80 percent of the cost — about $60,000 — and the city would be responsible for the remaining 20 percent. The city was unsuccessful in its request for funding last year.
Peggy Benson, who has driven the almost 20-year-old van for the past 17 years, spoke at the hearing, explaining that its condition is “very bad.” Just that day, she noticed it was “raining on the inside” — and noted that she’s had to contend with a door hanging from two hinges instead of three, along with a lift that has rusted out so badly she can no longer transport passengers in wheelchairs.
“It’s a very dangerous van,” Benson said. “If they would see this van, they would have no question whatsoever that we definitely need a new van.”
The van, which is the sole form of transportation for a number of senior citizens, is something the city takes seriously, said Mayor Terry Stocker. He added that the grant application is due March 21, and that the city should be notified of the outcome by July.