The Ottumwa Courier

November 16, 2012

New paratransit van to increase service

Roof approved for Naval Air Station museum

Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Ottumwa Transit will be getting a new paratransit van to better aid those medically qualified for the service and to comply with DOT regulations.

“The discussion [at this week’s Ottumwa City Council meeting] centered on the large number of people that need the lift van service,” said City Administrator Joe Helfenberger. “If we turn down more than 5 percent of requests, we can lose federal and state funding we do get for the rest of the bus service, which would make it very difficult to be able to provide the services we do.”

As it stands, there are times Ottumwa Transit has to turn down riders because they simply don’t have a van available.

“Just because they call and say at 9 a.m. I have a doctor’s appointment, if we don’t have a van available to take them at that time, then we have to turn down the request,” said City Attorney Joni Keith. “We are limited on the number of requests we can turn down.”

Ridership numbers were surprising, Helfenberger said, since they were high for that particular service.

“We want to make sure we’re providing all of the services we possibly can for this type of service because it’s a basic necessity for some people,” Helfenberger said.

The paratransit services are for those who are medically qualified who are unable to ride the regular city bus. A rider has to be certified annually in order to ride the paratransit van.

“We have to individually certify each individual,” Keith said. “These vans are to take those people from door to door.”

The addition of this van will help the department to become compliant with DOT regulations and provide more service, Keith said.

“We’re continuing to strive to be completely compliant with all DOT regulations,” Keith said. “This is just one more element the DOT wants us to work on.”


NAS update

The Naval Air Station museum’s new roof was also approved at this week’s council meeting.

“It was good news,” said Stephen Black, of Des Moines, originally from Ottumwa.

A Historic Mitigation Project requirement in a FEMA grant gave Friends of NAS Ottumwa the chance to apply for their roof project, since they are both a nonprofit organization and a historical project.

The next step is to demolish and re-pour concrete on the front porch, re-do the windows and repair some brick.

“We’re working from the roof line down,” Black said. “In the meantime we’ve been doing work to clean up the mess from urban assault training inside, the debris that resulted from that. The main hallway is lined with trash bags at the moment.”

Board members continue their search for those who stationed and trained at the former Administration Building.

“I wish there was more people that would take an interest in pitching in on this,” Black said. “I just recently found one ... this guy had posted vacation pictures of a town in Colorado and he was reminiscing that he went through there on his way to Ottumwa. I signed up for that site and sent him a message. My hope is maybe he’ll see it and respond back to me.”

Occasionally someone responds, Black said, though the problem is that many times, the person who was stationed in Ottumwa is deceased.

“Those are awkward letters,” he said. “But I explain what we’re doing here, what it’s about.”

He asks families to send in copies of any photos of or information about the person.

“The thing I like to say when I ask them is, ‘Envision school buses pulling up. What are the key things you want to say to those kids? What do you want to pass on?’” Black said. “Probably more often it’s the kids or a widow you’ll hear from.”

Also approved:

• An application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a second $400,000 brownfield, community-wide assessment grant to address hazardous substance and petroleum contamination. Helfenberger said the city anticipates they will use up all of the $400,000 awarded in the first grant.

• An application for the 2013 Community Development Block Grant not to exceed $277,900, with a local match of $262,900, for sewer improvements on Ottumwa’s east end.