By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
The Castor/Halkirk Community Van steering committee is currently fundraising for a new handi-van.
The committee, which oversees both the vans that are operated in Castor, is wanting to replace the older and larger of the two vans due to increasing cost of repairs.
In the last year the vehicle has required repairs to the wheelchair lift system twice, as well as a new transmission. These repairs have been in addition to the routine maintenance and inspections that are required to operate the vehicle.
“It’ s just costing money,” said committee Chair Brenda Kneller.
“It’s starting to rust. It’s 20 years old.”
The van in question is a 1998 Crestline bus on a Ford van chassis, and it currently has in excess of 150,000 km.
“The handi-vans are a valuable service to our communities,” said Kneller in a written follow-up for information.
“They provide transportation for any individual within our communities.”
Further putting pressure on the community van is the demise of Greyhound in recent years.
With there being no cab service or bus service out of town the decision was made to open the van to anyone with need in the communities of Castor or Halkirk, and the vans are not run for profit.
To date in 2019, over 160 trips have been made between the two buses.
Though the smaller van does typically get heavier use due to it being more fuel efficient and easier for people to get in and out of, the larger van is also used regularly for group outings from Paintearth Lodge and when multiple people have medical appointments in the city at the same time.
The current rates for the van use are $10 return in town, or $25 an hour for driving time, and $15 an hour while waiting for appointments.
The drivers, who are required to maintain their class 4 commercial driver’s licence, are volunteers who are paid a small honorarium for their time.
The Castor/Halkirk Community Van Committee, consisting of members from each community as well as the hospital, FCSS, group home, and Paintearth Lodge, has managed to raise around $64,000 of the estimated $100,000 needed to replace the bus.
Community fundraising for the service is ongoing and in addition the committee is investigating other sources of revenue such as government or service club grants.
Bookings for the Castor/Halkirk Community Bus can be made through the Town of Castor office, and donations for the new bus can be made to the Our Lady of Rosary Hospital Auxiliary, marked for the ‘new van fund’.
Tax refundable receipts are offered for those requesting them.