Dial-A-Ride to show off improvements at open housePublished 4:54pm Friday, May 28, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
It was in March 2009 that Niles’ Dial-A-Ride transportation (DART) received some good news.
After financial trouble that had plagued much of the year for the program, even leaving its future in Niles in question, it learned it would receive a grant of $410,000 from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act that would be used for much needed capital improvement projects.
A little more than a year later, and Dial-A-Ride is getting ready to show off the results of those improvements with an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“The open house is just basically to celebrate our facility’s remodeling,” said Kelly Getman-Dissette, transportation specialist with DART.
The grant handed down through the Obama administration’s historic and controversial stimulus plan, provided for some “pretty extensive renovation,” Getman-Dissette said. “Basically an overhaul of our existing office space.”
Still, there are other improvements that will have to wait.
“It sounds like a lot of money, but when you start getting down to the nitty-gritty, it’s not that much,” she said.
Though there was not a complete renovation in some aspects such as the plumbing system, the facility has turned into a more open and welcoming space for customers waiting to utilize the transportation services.
Calling it a “brighter, open area,” Getman-Dissette said, “now when you walk in you see a person looking at you and not just a desk, a worn-and-torn desk staring you in the face.
“It’s just a nicer place to be and I hope that helps our image,” she added, saying that the “caring staff there to help serve the public” is always focusing on customer service and overall operations.
For now, a new look and feel to the DART office is reason to celebrate but funding for the program remains an issue if not of immediate concern – certainly not too far off.
“Funding for operating is still a big issue for us as it is for every transportation agency in Michigan,” Getman-Dissette said. “So we still need that public support.”
City Administrator Terry Eull, who focused on ways to keep the program in the city when it came into question whether or not that would even be a possibility last year, said the city, which is trying to finalize its 2011 budget, is “limping along just like everybody else.”
“Money is still very tight,” he said.
Public support for the program led the city to make changes to some DART routes and operational aspects back in October 2008 and a a two-year contract with McDonald Transit Inc. for operation of the Dial-A-Ride system for the period of July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2011 was approved in January of 2009.
“Like everything else that relies on money from the state,” Eull said, “it’s just not there. We just have to monitor it very closely and hope for the best.”
In the meantime, Getman-Dissette said DART continues to appreciate its riders – only now from new and improved offices.