City of Rifle approves joint effort to continue senior meal, transportation services

Local seniors and people with disabilities worried the city of Rifle could perhaps break away from a specialized intergovernmental transit service can breathe a bit easier for the time being.

Rifle City Council on Wednesday approved continuing a joint effort with agencies and cities across Garfield County in providing senior meals and “The Traveler,” a county-wide bussing service that takes disabled or senior residents to and from destinations like doctor appointments and grocery shopping.

“These are very important services,” Councilor Theresa Hamilton said. “It’s great that our communities can come together and fill the gap when years ago programming was eliminated.”

The city is budgeted to kick in $121,745 toward the service for 2021.

However, the agreement shared with Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Garfield County and the Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) comes at a bit of a cost increase to Rifle’s budget, according to senior center director Tami Sours. It’s $11,326 more than 2020’s service.

Earlier this year, the city hired a consulting agency to conduct a cost analysis with the aim of reducing costs regarding the cooperative transit service. After figuring out that Rifle and Glenwood Springs are absorbing the lion’s share funding the service, city officials hoped to reduce their cost to less $100,000 per year.

One of the ways of doing so, according to Ross Peterson of Access and Mobility Solutions, would be for the city to completely opt out of the joint effort. If that becomes a reality, the city would only provide an in-house bussing service that will likely increase costs for its riders.

However, planning director Nathan Lindquist said that the city is currently in cost discussions with the county and RFTA and they’re going well.

“I can say at this point it looks really good as far as everybody starting to get on the same page,” he said. Everybody’s being very cooperative and working together.”

If in fact negotiations work in favor of Rifle, New Castle and Carbonable would incur an increase in costs.

“We’ll hopefully continue to evolve things and nail things down more as we move forward with 2022,” said Councilor Sean Strode.

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