Itawamba County group seeks funds to support public transportation for the elderly

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

Should Itawamba County offer some sort of public transportation for its elderly citizens? Some residents think it’s a good idea, but they need some financial support to get it up and running.

A group of about 12 Itawamba County citizens — referring to themselves as simply the “transportation committee” — are looking for ways to kick start a small public transportation system for the area. If it works out as planned, one or two buses will be available to pick up and transport county residents to both in- and out-of-county locations for a small round-trip fee.

These buses will be, technically, available for use by anyone, but priority will be given to elderly residents.

The estimated cost of such a program is around $1,250 per month, per bus. According to the group’s head, Brian Quinn, Itawamba County would have two buses, ideally.

Of course, it all comes down to money.

“It’s all going to depend on funding,” Quinn said. “I don’t know if we would be able to support it without help from the county. It will have to be a community effort if we want to be able to do this.”

Funding for the program can come from several sources, but Quinn is hoping the county board will see it as a boon and lend a hand. The group recently made an appearance before the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors with the proposal and request that the board consider funding the program as they continue to work on next year’s budget.

The board seemed intrigued by the idea, even optimistic, but made no commitments.

Speaking again of ideals, Quinn said he’d like the county to financially support one bus while the group raises funds to support a second.

If two buses are too costly, Quinn said the group would try to fund a single bus.

“We will take whatever we can get,” Quinn said. “Even running just a single bus will be very beneficial to the county.”

The idea for the program originated from the MSU-Extension Service’s “Smart Aging, Healthy Futures” program. When trying to develop some ways to make life easier for elderly people in Itawamba County, Quinn was immediately drawn to the idea of a public transportation system.

“In my experience, it’s one of the biggest concerns in our county,” Quinn said. As the manager of Complete Home Health Care in Fulton, Quinn said he frequently speaks with elderly residents, many of whom claim to have no easy way to get around the county.

Although riding the bus won’t be free, it will be cheap. Quinn said a round-trip to any in-county location would cost $3. The bus could also take riders to Tupelo at a cost of $5. Quinn said the buses could even go as far as Memphis.

If the buses stay full, these prices might even decrease.

The buses would make regular stops, plus pick up and drop off people at their homes. Quinn said the bus will also have a phone number attached to it, so residents who need to be picked up can call and arrange for the bus to stop by their home or location.

“Plus, it’s not just the elderly, although it definitely gives precedence to them,” Quinn said. “It’s basically inexpensive public transportation … [and] it’s something that would make Itawamba County unique in Northeast Mississippi.”

Currently, the closest neighbor offering this kind of service is Tishomingo County. According to Quinn, the program has worked well there and there’s no reason it can’t do the same in Itawamba County.

Those interested in having a public transportation system in Itawamba County are asked to either contact their local supervisor to express their support or contact Quinn at Complete Home Health Care by calling 862-7828.