The Payson Senior Center Jan. 4 requested and received $50,000 from Gila County for the Beeline Bus transit service it provides to Payson and Star Valley.

Past requests have amounted to $25,000 per year.

According to assistant county manager Homero Vela, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the service had approximately 500 riders a month, during COVID-19 that dropped to about 350 riders a month and is now averaging around 400 riders.

The Payson Senior Center pilot transportation service program started in 2018, with both the towns of Payson and Star Valley contributing financial assistance, along with the county and grants provided by the Federal Transit Administration for rural transit, 5311 Program. The center has worked closely with ADOT, the state administrator, to get rural transit funding available from the 5311 Program, Vela said.

Joanne Conlin, speaking on behalf of the Payson Senior Center’s transit program, told the board due to CARES Act funds, there was about $68,000 from its 2020-21 budget that has rolled into its 2021-22 transportation budget. She said the program will use that money before drawing on the county’s award.

Vela explained the award will not be a single check, but an account would be created with the Payson Senior Center transit program submitting invoices as needed.

The additional funds will primarily support the hiring of a part-time transit administrator and the operating expense for a third additional bus that was recently purchased. In order for the Senior Center to focus on transportation administration, they have also requested that County Fleet Services coordinate the maintenance for the three transit buses and that the county invoice the Senior Center for the maintenance cost. This will be the second renewal of three one-year renewal options.

State statute allows Gila County to provide financial support to the Payson Senior Center to provide transportation services for persons with disabilities and persons 60 years or older.

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