By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – After numerous false starts, the Council on Aging (COA) won selectmen’s approval Dec. 8 for a replacement strategy for its senior center bus fleet, one that includes boosting fees charged to seniors who use the service.
The board voted to allow the Council on Aging to tap up to $75,000 worth of funds bequeathed to the senior center in 2009 by the Zimka family to replace one of the three buses in its fleet. The cost of the bus will also be offset by pursuing possible advertising opportunities.
The long-range goal is to get the council on a five-year replacement schedule going forward, said Town Manager Jim Malloy.
The journey to winning the board’s sign-off was a bumpy one for the council. Town Meeting voters first asked for the report in the fall of 2014. The COA responded with a report selectmen rejected in February as too broad and a follow-up in July that still failed to win the board’s support. At that time, Assistant Town Manager Kristin Williams was asked to work with the council on generating more rigorous report.
The board voted to accept that document Dec. 8 and to carry out most of the recommendations it contains, including freeing up funds for a new bus to be purchased in the short term and adjusting fees.
Currently, the Senior Center suggests a donation of $.50 for each trip taken, and about 70 percent of riders choose to pay. Under the new fee schedule, which will take effect Friday, Jan. 1, each trip would cost $1 during normal operating hours and $1.50 at other times. The COA’s report notes that the new rates are still lower than most area communities.
The council agreed in its report to continuing working with the Worcester Regional Transit Authority to identify opportunities for collaboration.
Also Dec. 8, selectmen asked the Council on Aging to work to make Westborough a dementia-friendly community.
Westborough resident and the state’s Secretary of Elder Affairs Alice Bonner said communities earn the designation through a variety of programs aimed at offering support for the rapidly growing portion of the population suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia as well as for their caregivers.