Tuesday, November 28, 2023

New St. Mary’s community transit project gears up

  • April 26 2023
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

ST. MARY’S — With five community meetings completed and one to go, organizers are optimistic they’ll soon have a formal, citizen-led non-profit society behind the wheel of St. Mary’s new community transit project.

“The turnout [to the meetings] has been great,” said Sonia Morgan of the Nova Scotia Community Transit Network, who’s working with the provincial Department of Active Transit and Community Transportation to launch the initiative. “The community has been very supportive. It recognizes this as a need and has been asking a lot of questions.”

Morgan said the main order of business now for the project — which began in 2022 with provincial support for a business plan — is to identify interest from residents in becoming “a part of the leadership team.”

Specifically, she noted, “‘The focus is on establishing the first five members that are required in order to incorporate as a non-profit society through the Registry of Joint Stocks, and then those folks will have the opportunity to select additional members to fill out the board for the first year.”

She added: “They [meeting attendees] seem to be excited for this project to move forward, despite originally being skeptical about St. Mary’s getting the service.”

Last April, the provincial government kicked off the initiative with a $35,000 investment to assess the need and explore the options for a community-led public transportation system in the municipality in consultation with the Nova Scotia Community Transit Network.

According to the network, a non-profit advocacy group that’s been around since 1996, 19 service providers in the province are supported in whole or part by all three levels of governments and the communities they serve.

“Community-based transportation is public transportation based where you live,” its website says. “It’s the bus service around your town. It’s the van that comes to your door to take you to an appointment. It’s the car service that you can call to take you grocery shopping. By advocating for more community-based transportation in rural Nova Scotia, [we] improve options for residents who need transportation to get to and from medical appointments, school or classes, recreation opportunities, visiting friends and shopping.”

In an email last week, Marissa Jordan, chief administrative officer of the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s, told The Journal, “Our Community Development and Recreation Coordinator [Kerri Jack] is supporting the project management team, similarly with other start-up community organizations [here]. We are helping to support and connect the local community with both provincial members and the [Transit Network].”

Morgan — who recently helped deliver St. Mary’s popular Seeds of Literacy program to communities across the district — said forming an engaged board of directors for the new non-profit is fundamental to the long-term success of the initiative.

“All community-based non-profit boards benefit from a diversity of skills, abilities, networks and perspectives, so part of the selection process will be identifying what interested parties bring to the table and making sure that key areas will be represented,” she said. “A good candidate doesn’t need to be familiar with the ins and outs of the rural transportation sector. Ultimately we are seeking folks that care about the people the organization will serve and the issues it will try to address.”

The board, she emphasized, will be responsible for selecting a name for the new transit organization; establishing its mission, vision, values, bylaws, policies and procedures; hiring and supporting a manager; and succession planning.

Jordan added: “It will [also] be the responsibility of the board to determine and develop possible partners and their potential involvement for the project, including the municipality.”

Since early April, community meetings have been held in Sherbrooke, Indian Harbour Lake, Goshen, Port Bickerton and Liscomb. The last session for information and expressions of interest in a one-year commitment to board membership is scheduled for 12 p.m., Friday, April 28, at Maple Manor in Sherbrooke.

For more information, email stmarystransit@communitytransitns.ca.