SIDNEY — The Shelby County Transportation Planning Committee is seeking input from area residents about public transportation needs.

During its quarterly meeting, Thursday, June 21, representatives from various agencies planned a focus group session for Sept. 19. The session will be open to the public, but each agency participating on the committee will also invite specific stakeholders to attend.

At Thursday’s meeting, there were representatives of the Shelby County commissioners, Catholic Social Services, the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee, Shelby County Transit, Fair Haven, Shelby County Department of Job and Family Services, Area Agency on Aging and SafeHaven.

Tricia Stemen, of SafeHaven, said that her agency’s vans and drivers could be available to transport people to the focus group session if they don’t have other means of travel.

The session is tentatively planned to take place from noon to 2 p.m.

In other business, the group discussed:

• Shelby Transit’s need for drivers. The shortage, said Transit Manager Ron Schalow, is not unique to Sidney or to public transit agencies. “Schools have a shortage of bus drivers. It’s everywhere,” he noted. He also reported that Shelby Transit’s program of extending service hours by an hour and half, originally planned to go through August, is working well.

• SafeHaven’s work to get funding for a handicap accessible van. “We’re using 12-passenger buses now, with no accessibility. Our newest one has 150,000 miles on it; the oldest, 328,000,” said Stemen. Catholic Social Services Mobility Manager Michelle Caserta suggested the agency investigate the possibility of a 5339 grant from the state, which supports funding for buses.

• That a small church in Auglaize County has undertaken an effort to develop transportation for people who need it to get to work at the local McDonald’s restaurant.

Alex Growel, of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, reported on the first meeting of the Greater Regional Mobility Initiative, an Ohio Department of Transportation program to devise a plan for shared transportation among nine counties.

“We did a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,” she said.

Glen Massie, transportation planner at the Clark County agency, noted that partnerships are driving programs in Springfield.

“We’ve got some major things going on. I’ve never seen collaboration like this,” he said.

Stemen reported that SafeHaven is hosting an open house and free lunch today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in its offices at 1101 N. Vandemark Road to give the public an opportunity to learn about the mental health services the agency provides.

By Patricia Ann Speelman

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Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.