Morgan Commission on Aging to receive vans for senior outings
By Erica Smith
For the Enquirer
The Morgan County Commission is using federal funds to purchase five large vans for the Morgan County Commission on Aging to use for outings for senior citizens.
Officials say it has been a while since they have had large enough vehicles.
Sandra Adams, Morgan County Commission on Aging director, said the five vans are vital so that the senior citizens “can get out and do their daily events again, go on little trips and everything. We haven’t had vehicles for a while now so we’re just trying to get back to normal.”
Adams said the size of available vehicles has been the limiting factor.
“Now we’re excited because we haven’t had the large transportation, like more than three-people vehicles. So, this way we can get them out and about and get going on our outings again, which is great,” she said. “It’s something we’ve been looking forward to for a while so we’re excited.”
Ray Long, Morgan County Commission chairman, said the seniors like to be able to go out for activities.
“Sometimes they’ll get together and they’ll go out to eat instead of eating at the center. They’ll find an event to go to, stop and do activities,” he said. “Right now, they have no way of doing that. Since we got out of the bus business with NARCOG (North Central Alabama Regional Council of Governments), we have no way to haul them.”
Previously, NARCOG used shuttle buses for transportation to senior centers, meal deliveries, and provided transportation for the general public. Last October, NARCOG discontinued public transportation for residents outside of Decatur. Since the County Commission decided not to take over the public transport role, they were no longer allowed to use the buses that were purchased with federal funds, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation.
“We bought some cars, these Toyota cars to deliver meals, but you can only haul three people in the car. It’s not feasible for them to do outings,” Long said. “Right now, they’re isolated just to their senior centers.”
Adams said all eight Morgan County senior centers will be utilizing the vans. She said the vans will also be used for purposes other than events.
“We have riders that we pick up and bring (to the centers),” Adams said.
Three of the vans hold 14 passengers each while two of the vans are handicap-accessible. Adams said they require both types.
“Some people have walkers, some people have wheelchairs,” she said. “So, we have to make sure, if we’re going to do some type of event, we’ve got to make sure we have the right vehicle for those people.”
Long said they want to help the county’s senior citizens.
“Our seniors are the reason we’re here,” he said. “They brought us to where we’re at, so we need to take care of them.”
At last week’s Morgan County Commission meeting, the commission approved allocating $462,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the five vans. Federal ARPA funds were provided to governmental entities to aid in public health and economic recovery from COVID.
“It’s a great thing to use ARPA funds on,” Long said. “A lot of things we’ve done with our money is not be selfish with it, try to spread it out where it benefits a lot of people. I think that was the original intent when the federal government sent all this money to the counties, was to do something to make a difference in the county and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Long said the Commission on Aging has not yet received the vans.
“They said it would be a couple weeks before we got them,” he said, and “the handicap vans won’t be here until November.”