ETHRA transportation may be cut to rural counties

ETHRA transportation may be cut to rural counties

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By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

LENOIR CITY (WATE) - People who rely on transportation from the East Tennessee Human Resource Agency or ETHRA may need to find another way to get around after July 1.

At that time, ETHRA officials say their budget may be cut and some areas will not be included in their service area.

"It's a result of the 2010 Census that was released a couple of years ago," said ETHRA Transportation Director Mike Patterson.
     
The census said some areas had too much urban growth for ETHRA's services. The growth will cause a $700,000 loss of federal money.

The areas that will have transportation cuts include Clinton, Oliver Springs, Alcoa, Maryville, Lenoir City, Loudon, and Seymour.

ETHRA vans are available at low costs to transport people. They are primarily used to get people to medical appointments.

City and county officials in the affected areas are worried about the cut in transportation.

"We are going to do all we can to get those dollars restored were they should be," said Lenoir City's City Administrator Dale Hurst. "It's a vital service for our community."

County and city officials in the affected areas held a workshop Wednesday to think of ideas if the transportation is cut. One idea was for cities to contract ETHRA's services.

"Probably $16 and $18 per trip," said Hurst. "If you have 5,000 trips, you're probably talking about anywhere from $75,000 to $85,000 a year."

Hurst says that is a lot of money to come up with in just little over a month.

"I think it's terrible, to be honest with you," said ETHRA user Donnie Mayfield. "If you don't have services like ETHRA, then you don't have no service at all."

ETHRA officials say the cut would affect more than 1,300 people who use their services.

"Everyone is committed, and I know all the county mayors are, because we are all committed for no one to lose their transportation services," said Patterson.

ETHRA officials say there is hope the money may be restored, but right now they are acting as if they money will not be there.

They are planning more workshops in the near future with city and county leaders to think of other ideas if the cuts do happen.

If this does happen, ETHRA will also be forced to cut drivers and staff from their call center as well.

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