HATS takes heat at hearing

By DENISE GRANT
STAFF WRITER

Hancock Area Transportation Services, or HATS, faced criticism Tuesday for falling short of meeting the county’s public transportation needs.

HATS, operated by the Hancock Hardin Wyandot Putnam Community Action Commission, uses vans to provide public transportation in Findlay and Hancock County for a low fare. Reservations are required.

At a public meeting Tuesday about Hancock County’s public transportation, one HATS user, Sharon Thompson, said she has been unable to get a ride home several times at night.

“The office closes at 4:30 p.m., and after that, you can’t contact anyone. Last ride is 9 p.m., and I know that,” Thompson said.

Thompson, who suffers from night blindness, depends on the service to move around Findlay.

“We came from Fostoria, and you can walk around that town. Findlay is too big. This is not a walking town,” she said.

Hancock County is updating its public transportation plan. Tuesday’s meeting was the first planning session. It was held at the Family Center, 1800 N. Blanchard St., with representatives of several nonprofits and a few community members attending.

Discussion focused on the county’s current plan, unmet needs, coordination efforts, and the process for developing a new plan.

There were other complaints about HATS, including the lack of 24-hour service or on-demand service.

The nonprofit representatives at the meeting seemed to agree that HATS gets all the criticism because it is the only public transportation service in town.

Julie Brown, a program officer with the Community Foundation, said getting the “transportation piece” right is important.

John Urbanski, president of United Way of Hancock County, said transportation must be offered beyond the “nonprofit hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

Urbanski also said food access is important, and he said people can’t get to food assistance programs without transportation help.

Public opinions are being sought. County residents who use public transportation, employers, and even taxi cab drivers are being asked to take a survey.

The survey is available at the Hancock Hardin Wyandot Putnam Community Action Commission’s website.

Projects and organizations that plan to apply for federal transportation funding must be part of the county’s “public transit-human services transportation plan.”

The plan must be developed through a process that includes representatives from public, private, and nonprofit transportation services, human services providers, and the general public.

Additional information is available from Zach Kincade at 937-299-5007, or zkincade@rlsandassoc.com, or from Dave Salucci at the Community Action Commission at 419-423-3755, dsalucci@hhwpcac.com.

Interested people who were unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting may send comments to Kincade’s email address or to RLS & Associates, 3131 S. Dixie Highway, Suite 545, Dayton 45439.

Grant: 419-427-8412
denisegrant@thecourier.com
Twitter: @CourierDenise

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