Loss of bus routes leaves Nevada County disabled stranded | TheUnion.com

Loss of bus routes leaves Nevada County disabled stranded

A contract for bus transportation for disabled adults to attend some daily programs in Nevada County was canceled last week, leaving at least one community art center in the lurch.

"This affects 24 of our clients," said Amee Medeiros, executive director of the Neighborhood Center of the Arts in Grass Valley.

"That's a lot of money (lost) for us when they don't come."

She said her agency was only notified Wednesday of the cancellation when bus drivers from Gold Country Telecare did not pick up any clients.

According to Dave Walker, executive director of Gold Country Telecare, the contract that was canceled was with Alta California Regional Center, a regional agency that gets its funding from the state.

The contract affects six bus routes serving clients of three Nevada County programs, including the Neighborhood Center of the Arts, Walker said. Most of the routes serve people in the outlying areas, he said.

Walker said he notified Alta California Regional Center about three weeks ago that the Telecare board would have to end service on April 30 unless Alta California could increase the rates the state allocates for transit service providers. Walker said the current set rate allocated by the state was about half of Telecare's cost of providing the service. His board said it could no longer overlook the financial losses.

"We had a $217,662 shortfall (in the Alta California Regional Center contract) over the last nine months," he said.

Phil Bonnet, executive director of Alta California Regional Center, said he has been working feverishly over the last three weeks to petition the state for a higher rate and to look for alternative providers — but he ran out of time.

"They pulled the plug with very little notice," Bonnet said of Telecare.

"I understand that they should get paid more, but we did sign a contract with them.

"I wish they could have given us a little more time," he added.

Bonnet said he has filed an application for a waiver of the state's set rate but hasn't yet heard back.

He said he is in negotiations with another provider to set up both short-term and long-term solutions in Nevada County. He declined to name the provider while negotiations are in progress.

Medeiros, meanwhile, said she and her staff are scrambling to find rides for their 24 affected program participants.

She and her staff picked up some people in their agency vans, arranged for alternative transportation services for a few others and also contacted parents of the clients to see if they could give their children rides. Some people, such as a woman in a wheelchair that would not fit in the vans, had to stay home, Medeiros said.

The center, which has 68 clients, is paid a set fee for each disabled person who attends, Medeiros said.

Her clients produce art that is later sold in the community at various shows. The clients receive a small monthly income from the sales and gain the community engagement and friendship that the center provides.

"Our program might not survive," Medeiros said.

"This is sort of taking our purpose away, which is to give this population a purpose and to see them leave with friends and smiles."

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email kbrenner@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.