Ridership has continued to climb upward again for Southern Iowa Trolley after the heat of the pandemic, a positive sign for SIT director Leesa Lester.
Lester said during the Wednesday, Jan. 5 Adair County Board of Supervisors meeting that Adair County ridership is about the same, while other counties have seen “considerable increases.” She came to the meeting to share with the supervisors an update on 2021 and present SIT’s budget request for fiscal year 2023.
“Our ridership is slowly increasing. It’s not anywhere close to what it was in FY19 before COVID, but I think every month and every year we’re seeing an increase,” Lester said. “I think a lot of it is because school’s back in session and you have parents wanting transportation for their kids. Our senior riders are also back. You can tell that in the last year they went from 8,300 to 12,000, so I think they’re becoming more comfortable about getting out too.”
Lester answered a question from Supervisors Chairman Matt Wedemeyer about SIT’s ability to keep drivers by saying there’s a shortage of them, and training them is also particularly difficult because of new mandates for prospective holders of Commercial Driver’s Licenses coming down from the Federal Motor Carrier Association.
“This will probably affect your county CDL drivers too, but there are new training requirements that will be effective in February,” Lester explained “They have to complete so many hours of drive training. We do that anyway, but our position is that if the person is comfortable we schedule them to go take the test. We don’t have a big training facility. CDLs are going to be the problem and getting training. It’s just tough.”
Lester asked the supervisors for an amount of funding $140 less than last year, in order to meet fiscal year 2023′s anticipated budget.
According to its website, Southern Iowa Trolley offers door to door service in Greenfield, Corning, Osceola, Leon, Mount Ayr and Creston.
Other entities provided funds by the supervisors came to them requesting fiscal year 2023 funds. They include:
• Midwest Partnership Economic Development’s Peter Johnson visited with the supervisors, introducing himself and highlighting recent activity by MWP. He stated childcare and business transactions are big areas of focus for him in both Adair and Guthrie County. MWP requested the same amount of funds as last year.
• Southern Iowa Council of Governments Executive Director Tim Ostroski visited with the supervisors, saying that a highlight of what SICOG has done is that $1.1 million in loans were given out to businesses in 2021. SICOG requested
• The Adair County Historical Society had several representatives attend the supervisors meeting to request funds for FY 2023. The historical society asked for $6,000 so that they can update their insurance plan and security system.
• Aby Bauer and several others spoke on behalf of the Adair County Fair Board. They stated that previous money allocated by the supervisors has been used to rewire the sheep barn, and now they would like to rewire the horse barn, which is badly needed. They requested $50,000 for these and other projects.
• Mike Stringham and Jothan Arber from Adair/Cass/Guthrie/Audubon County Environmental Health discussed rates for the upcoming year with the supervisors. It was suggested by the board that rates be raised to $175 for wells and $225 for septic inspections to be in line with the other counties in the partnership and account for added work that often goes with septic inspections. Their funding request was for $30,000. Auditor Mandy Berg explained after the meeting that half of that would come out of the rural fund and half of that would come out of the general fund.
• Adair County Public Health Director Stephanie Claussen talked with the supervisors about the challenging last year for her agency and how they’re meeting the needs of the residents of the county despite those challenges. She asked for a funding level the same as last year, at $85,000.
• Terri Queck-Matzie talked with the supervisors on behalf of Adair County Tourism and said things are going well. Tourism now has a new website, which may be found at www.visitadaircounty.org. Queck-Matzie requested Tourism be allocated an amount of $3,500 in the upcoming budget.
• ISU Extension and Outreach Regional Director Kerry Aistrope talked with the supervisors about local Extension and 4-H programs, reporting that staff are focusing on mental health this year, playing a positive role in that process in their communities by engaging in training on the topic. Aistrope reported they would like to find two interns for the coming summer and the requested contribution from the supervisors of $14,000 would cover those costs.
• Danna Buls, Executive Director for MATURA Action Corporation, and Raedeen Bigelow, director of the Adair County MATURA Neighborhood Center, presented MATURA’s funding request to the board, saying that while the last year has been rough, they’ve been able to be on the front lines of helping those in need in the communities they serve through a wide array of services and assistance they offer. MATURA’s funding request totaled approximately $24,665.