Decision on spare Paratransit bus put on hold by City Council

Herald file photo. Community Services Centre CEO Bill Powalinsky.

A decision on whether Paratransit in Prince Albert can have a spare bus once a new bus arrives has been moved to a later date.

Bill Powalinsky, CEO of the Community Services Centre made the request during Prince Albert City Council’s executive committee on Monday with council moving the decision until after a report is prepared by Public Works.

Powalinsky told council that the organization needs a spare bus in order to improve service.

“We were really excited to see last week’s agenda item dealing with a new bus being ordered for the service. Since we’ve implemented the split shift, we’re down to one spare bus. There has been about three times in the last year when we’ve had our one spare bus in the garage and something else has gone down,” Powalinsky explained.

Powalinsky said there have been times when they don’t have enough buses for all their routes, usually when one bus is in for service or gets stuck during bad winter weather. He said not having an extra bus puts the organization at risk.

“We are proposing and we are entreating you to have a second look at whether or not the one bus that is slated for retirement actually is retired,” Powalinsky told council. “What we would like to see is that bus be maintained and serviced as a yard bus only to be used either when all of our six buses are either in service or otherwise we have two buses tied up.”

The original motion was that the spare bus motion be forwarded to the Public Works Department.

Powalinsky said that they run on the principles of effective services so they would not want to have to cut back services.

Ward 3 Coun. Tony Head said keeping the spare bus was important and made a motion that community services maintain the bus for their use to ensure they have an extra.

“It’s great to hear that our services are being utilized and we’re doing the best we can with the services and busses that we have,” Head said.

Mayor Greg Dionne wouldn’t support Head’s motion because he would rather see if another new bus could be purchased.

“Does the frame have to be rebuilt again? We are going to have a very tough budget in 2024 and I don’t want to give them a bus that they are going to have to repair because they are going to ask us for the money,” Dionne said.

Dionne added that the bus was a catch up bus because they were behind at the time of the original purchase.

“I would sooner go with the argument to the province that we need another good bus to keep our services and keep the counts down,” Dionne said. “I’m afraid we’re going to pull this bus out and it’s going to break down just like the other one and that’s why I supported it going to public works.”

Dionne said he would rather they subsidize a new bus than repair a bus purchased in 2014.

Powalinsky said that the purpose of the bus was to be a backup to their backup bus.

“It would be primarily parked until it was absolutely needed,” he explained. “We wouldn’t be putting it back to full service, but it would go in when we had charters and we had a spare bus that would have to go out.

“This time of year we’re very busy with charters. It may cost $20,000 to repair. That’s significantly less than a cost for a new bus, but I would be very, very excited, by the way, to get a second bus.

The bus in question was one of two buses purchased in 2014.

Ward 7 Coun. Dawn Kilmer favoured seeing the report on the bus first. Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick agreed that they should wait on Head’s motion and the motion would be best after a report was prepared.

Ogrodnick said that changes made by council showed that they knew it was important that residents who use the service are shown dignity and respect.

“It’s a great service now that we have a backup bus already for that. Hopefully that is sufficient right now,” Ogrodnick said.

“I think the original motion should move forward and then Councillor Head, this motion would be great after we get the report on whether this old bus could be a back up to a back up or not,” he added.

“I definitely don’t want to see people left without the service in the evenings and on weekends. It gives dignity to their life in Prince Albert and that is we need to make sure that people use the service.”

Head’s motion was defeated 7-1 and the original motion was passed 7-1. Head was the vote for his motion and vote against the original motion.

Dionne made the original motion again with an addition that the correspondence be referred to Public Works for review and report and come back to council whenever that report is done.

Powalinsky also presented council with a report on Updated Paratransit Statistics and Strategic Plan.