Construction begins on Council on Aging Transportation Center

The Lake County Council on Aging (LCCOA) on Tuesday, April 18, opened a new transportation hub for one of its key programs, Lake County Community Transit.

The nonprofit LCCOA has helped thousands of seniors and their families since its inception in 1979, operating out of a single, small, rented office at the Mission Valley Senior Center. The new facility to be built across Highway 93 from the Ronan Municipal Pump will provide five offices, a conference room and a bus barn with room for all transportation program vehicles , as well as room to expand.

“It’s the first time we’ve had our own space, and enough space for all the different programs we do,” said LCCOA director Dara Rodda. “We’re excited to be able to organize things, be more visible and involved in the community, and keep our vehicles safe and well maintained.”

The project has been in the works for more than a year, beginning with an application for an installation grant through the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), which distributes funds from the Federal Transit Administration.

Typically, a nonprofit would be required to provide matching funds, or a “co-payment,” Rodda said. But because this grant took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, LCCOA was able to use CARES Act funding, so it is 100% funded.

“This is really great news, so any fundraisers we do will go towards funding services rather than this new facility,” Rodda said.

It was a new experience for LCCOA to work with a grant of this size, Rodda said. She thanked the LLCOA Board of Directors, as well as the Montana Department of Transportation staff who supported and advised her through this new process. She is working with a local contractor, Ridgeway Construction, who won the tender and who will have the chance to complete their first major commercial contract.

“It’s really nice to be able to use local people and support the economy in this way,” Rodda said. “We both had this great opportunity.”

Lake County Community Transit primarily serves seniors and people with disabilities who need to get to medical appointments in Lake County and Missoula and Kalispell, although others sometimes use the service to get to work or for other reasons. The program is open to the general public and has provided approximately 15,000 rides over 160,000 miles over the past three years. The program is one of the few in Montana still run by volunteer drivers, Rodda said.

“It’s a door-to-door service, so we collect the passenger from their home and take them directly to their medical appointment. Having a volunteer run transportation program really shows what a truly amazing community we live in.

“We are currently looking for more volunteers, so if you have a few extra hours a week and want to do good in your community and make new friends, volunteering with this program might be for you,” Rodda said.

Hours of operation for transportation are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Rides should be booked at least 24-48 hours in advance so that volunteers can be scheduled.

The Council on Aging offers a variety of services in addition to transportation, including respite assistance for caregivers, assistance with household chores, nutrition programs, and an information and assistance program. They are readily available to answer questions related to elderly care and resources.

For more information, contact Lake County Council on Aging at 406-676-2367 or visit lakecountycoa.org.

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