Senior vans look like a go |

Senior vans look like a go

Emily Aughinbaugh

Local funding has been approved and plans are in the works for South Shore senior citizens to get around town easier.

The El Dorado County Commission on Aging is drafting a grant proposal requesting federal funds to purchase and operate two compressed natural gas vans in South Lake Tahoe.

Commissioner on Aging Marvin Weitzenhoffer said transportation for the elderly has been needed for a long time.

“We have a very serious problem of transporting people to their medical appointments off the hill and getting them to their medical appointments on the hill, especially in the winter, even for people who have cars,” Weitzenhoffer said. “All of the other public transportation that we have is good, but it’s very difficult for the seniors to get to the pick-ups in inclement weather.”

Weitzenhoffer said the natural gas vans, estimated at $65,000 each, would need to be four-wheel drive and able to accommodate 11 or 12 mobile people and two wheelchair-bound.

The Commission on Aging has to submit its grant proposal to the state by March 9 to be eligible for Federal Transit Agency money that will fund 80 percent of the $65,000.

The FTA allocates $7 to $8 million each year to California for providing better transportation for the elderly and disabled. Weitzenhoffer said about half of the applicants will be awarded the funding they seek.

In order to make South Lake Tahoe’s application the best, Weitzenhoffer said he’s seeking input from senior citizens on whether they would use the transportation.

Although not all of the plans have been laid out, Weitzenhoffer said the vans would run out of the Senior Center, transporting people to locations within South Lake Tahoe on Tuesdays and Thursdays and taking them off the hill on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Weitzenhoffer said he’s not eliminating any opportunity to work collaboratively with Douglas County, but current plans will only serve the El Dorado County residents on the East Slope.

The City Council, El Dorado County Board of Supervisors and the nonprofit group Senior Center Inc. already have collectively approved $74,000 to fund the senior vans if the grant proposal is approved by the FTA.

“I think it’s wonderful and it’s a need that’s been here for a long time,” said Councilwoman Judy Brown.

“I’m just excited that this is going to go through.” Supervisor Dave Solaro agreed.

“I think it’s outstanding because it’s something really needed for the elderly,” he said. “It’s long overdue.”

The state will announce its final list of approved grants in September, but Weitzenhoffer said it could be close to two years before the vans hit South Shore streets.

Senior citizens willing to fill out a survey necessary to obtain funding for two senior citizen vans should call the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center at (530) 542-6094.

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