Online rumour creates community concern

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

A rumour about the removal of the Freedom Express bus by council arose online on Friday, July 31, which was quickly shut down by the Mayor, several council members, and other Town of Hinton administrative members.

In an online response, The Mayor stated that no such decision had been made and that, in fact, an exciting option to potentially better deliver this service with other local groups would be coming to Council on Aug. 18.

“Services for our seniors and our most vulnerable are imperative and we will continue to make this a priority,” wrote Mayor Marcel Michaels in a comment on the post about the rumour.

Freedom Express is managed by Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) and provides safe, economical, wheelchair-accessible, and door-to-door transportation for seniors, disabled adults, and children, according to the Town website.

Town administration replied to questions from The Voice stating there are no plans to see accessible transportation services eliminated as a service to Hinton residents.

“During the budget deliberation process, Council determined that the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) Department would be required to bring forward an overall departmental budget reduction of $75,000 in 2020 and in future years to meet the desired tax rate increase. There is a public report coming forward on August 18th in regard to the FCSS service area and required reduction, where there are suggested changes to services,” said Town staff.

As of Aug. 4, the Facebook post referencing the rumour had 147 comments, mostly from concerned citizens worried about losing this service in the community.

Mayor Michaels’ daily video address on Facebook reiterated that the service would potentially be delivered with other local groups in the future.

The only recent reference to a potential partnership with a non profit organization was an in-camera item at the July 21 standing committee meeting of council.

While council is able to discuss certain issues in-camera, which is the private portion of a council meeting, they are not able to pass any motions unless it is on public record and during a regular meeting of council.

The July 21 standing committee meeting had the following on the in-camera portion of the agenda: “2. The Town of Hinton and The Evergreens Foundation Partnership Agreement (Section 24 of FOIP)”

Council came out of camera and made the following direction: That Committee recommend Council enter into an agreement with The Evergreens Foundation as presented In-Camera.

This direction will come to a regular council meeting to be voted on.

The next regular meeting of council is scheduled for Aug. 18 and can be viewed by all members of the public via the Town of Hinton YouTube stream. The agenda of that meeting will be publicly available on the Town website on Aug. 14.