As part of the Hwy. 16 action plan, communities in surrounding areas of main hubs such as Burns Lake might have buses connecting them to Hwy. 16.
Communities and organizations had until Oct. 28, 2016 to apply for the community vehicle grant program. If approved, the B.C. government will pay up to 70 per cent of the purchase price of a new or used vehicle, and up to 70 per cent of the estimated operating cost of a transportation service.
Although government is still evaluating applications, Lakes District News asked the surrounding First Nations communities, as well as the Village of Granisle if they had applied for the community vehicle grant program
Skin Tyee First Nation (STFN), located on the Southside, confirmed they’ve applied for the program.
“Whether we are successful or not, we do believe there should be public transportation from the Southside and return connecting community members to the new Hwy. 16 bus system,” said Adele Gooding, STFN’s general manager. “We believe that all First Nation and non-First Nation communities should have equitable access to safe transportation.”
Granisle Mayor Linda McGuire said Granisle has also applied for this grant funding to enhance their already established ‘better at home’ program.
“If successful with our grant application, we will be formulating a plan to assist our seniors and local residents with transportation to access necessities such as banking, medical appointments and groceries away from our community,” she said. “One of the main focus will be to ensure we have a long-term vision for the sustainability of the community grant vehicle program.”
Lake Babine Nation (LBN) Chief Wilf Adam said LBN is currently in negotiations with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to determine how LBN will be involved in the Hwy. 16 action plan.
“We will be involved one way or another,” he said.
However, Chief Adam chose not to discuss the community vehicle grant program at this time.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, applications will be evaluated based on predetermined criteria, including need for service, social and economic benefits, cost effectiveness, accessibility and interconnectivity. Preference will be given to applicants representing First Nations communities or partnered with First Nations communities, as well as to remote communities where no services are currently available.
Grants for the community vehicle grant program are expected to be delivered in early 2017.
Earlier this year, Eileen Benedict, Director of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s Electoral Area E, requested that Electoral Area E – which includes the Southside – be taken out of the financial projections of the new transit system.
Nee Tahi Buhn and Wet’suwet’en First Nation did not respond by press time.