Council to vote on new Paratransit and Seniors Transportation Services contract at Monday meeting

A Community Service Centre (CSC) paratransit bus sits outside their office on Second Avenue East in Prince Albert. -- Herald file photo.

Prince Albert city council will vote on a new Paratransit and Seniors Transportation Service contract between the City and the Community Service Centre (CSC) at Monday’s council meeting.

The contract will see the CSC receive a total budget of $872,335 in 2025, and $892,171 in 2026. That marks a respective 15.6 per cent and 18.5 per cent increase over the CSC’s 2024 budget.

The year-to-year increase is based on an estimated 2.5 per cent inflation rate.

City administration has also recommended council approve an additional $52,971 to maintain paratransit status quo service levels for 2024. Those funds will come from the Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

The CSC had originally requested $103,521 to help maintain services levels. However, the City recommended the CSC conduct a review of its current financial position, according to a report written by the City’s operations manager, Mohammad Kraishan.

Kraishan wrote that after the review, the revised funding amount to maintain status quo transit service in 2024 was “significantly less than the original requested funding amount.”

Kraishan’s report is included in Monday’s agenda package.

As part of the agreement, the City will pay fuel costs directly. Kraishan estimates that will cost around $100,000 in 2025 and $105,000 in 2026.

“One of the main points discussed during negotiations was the pricing volatility of fuel that largely impacts the budget for paratransit and subsequently creates a shortfall that could lead to reduction in service,” reads the report. “To eliminate the impact of fuel pricing on the paratransit service, the City will be paying the fuel cost directly as part of the approved overall paratransit budget as set in the Contract. One of the advantages to this approach is that the CSC, when providing paratransit service, will benefit from the discounted fuel price the City has under its existing fuel contract.”

The City of Prince Albert and CSC have been in a war of words over the issue of seniors transportation and paratransit. The CSC held a press conference in January, arguing that paratransit services faced a funding crisis and would be forced to cut services if they did not receive more funding.

The CSC provided 37,145 rides in 2023, an increase of 11,405 from 2022. Paratransit riders use the service to attend everything from religious services to doctors appointments to Prince Albert Raider hockey games.

The City countered with an ad campaign, arguing they could not finalize funding amounts until a contract was in place. The ad campaign also criticized CSC CEO Bill Powalinsky for allegedly failing the organization by not disclosing plans to run for mayor.

The CSC later released a statement from vice-chair Shelley Gordon backing Powalinsky, and accusing the City of trying to shift focus away from paratransit services with their ad campaign.

Monday’s meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the council chamber at City Hall.