Rolling in style: Seniors get new high-tech bus

Local senior citizens will be riding in style now that the Moffat County Housing Authority has purchased a new bus to transport them.

"On behalf of the senior citizens, I'm just thrilled they have it," Executive Director Keith Antonson said. "They can be proud to say, 'That's our bus.'"

The organization received a Colorado Department of Transportation grant that paid 80 percent of the $34,910 vehicle. The remaining 20 percent, about $6,982, came from the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, American Association of Retired People, United Way, First Christian Church and several individual donors.

"This community is incredible," Antonson said. "The money we needed as a local match, we had no trouble obtaining locally."

The Housing Authority was founded in 1974, and leaders later realized area seniors had additional needs.

In 1991, the agency received "Old Blue," a 1989 Ford Econoline, as a donation. The agency still uses the van for Meals on Wheels trips but purchased a 10-passenger minibus with a wheelchair lift in 1997.

MCHA has used this bus ever since, but Antonson said it has a few drawbacks.

Many passengers use walkers, which must be stored in the aisle, causing a safety hazard. The new bus, a 2005 Ford Senator, has storage in the rear that allows for groceries and other items to be secured during travel.

The new bus features retractable seatbelts, a more convenient location for the wheelchair lift and heated steps.

"It'll make it a much more comfortable ride for passengers in January in Craig, Colo.," Antonson said.

Transportation Coordinator Gladys Mansfield, who has driven the bus for nine years, said the senior citizens are ready for a test ride in the new vehicle.

"The other (bus has) been good and it's done its job and everybody loves it, but they're excited for the new bus," she said. "I think it's going to be a busy few weeks."

Mansfield lauded Antonson for his efforts to get an upgrade for local seniors. "He did a lot of work to make it possible to buy this bus," she said.

Antonson said seniors have taken 9,767 rides since January.

"We estimate we're going to go well over 10,000 rides by the end of the year," he said.

However, the new bus may not be available until after the first of the year. Antonson is working on getting estimates on the striping and lettering for the side. He also is working on advertising the old vehicle for sale.

The transportation service is available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to all seniors who live within a five-mile radius of Craig.

"I think there's a misconception in the community that this bus is only for Sunset Meadows residents, and that couldn't be further from the truth," Antonson said. "We'll go where they want, when they want."

For more information, call the Housing Authority at 824-3660.

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