Oct 162007
Authors: Nikki Cristello

Dial-A-Ride may no longer be on the agenda for Fort Collins’ city budget, causing some residents to raise concerns about safety, quality of life and transportation for the disabled community.

The Fort Collins City Council met Tuesday evening and began the first reading of ordinance 118, which sets the city’s budget for fiscal year 2008. The ordinance did not include the Dial-A-Ride program that many disabled citizens rely on.

The ordinance 118 is based on City Manager Darring Attebarry recommended budget, with additions from the city council, and includes all city funds.

The final budget is organized by seven result areas that have been approved by the Fort Collins City Council. Item six is transportation and requires that “Fort Collins improves the safety and ease of traveling to, from and throughout the city.”

Both disabled and fully functioning residents spoke to amending the budget to include money for the Dial-A-Ride program, particularly the Nighttime Dial-A-Ride.

Susan Williams, a disabled Fort Collins resident, said that she thinks disabled people are a group of people who experience discrimination.

“I ask the council to take the service for what it is, necessary,” she said. “I ask you to walk a mile in our shoes or in our wheel chairs.”

She also said she invited each council member to end their days at 6:30 p.m., as the disabled community would have to do if the Nighttime Dial-A-Ride is not funded.

She said not one member has accepted her challenge.

Jenny Merril added that she did not think it was fair to make the community beg for a service that should be “a given.” She said ending the evening transportation was a way of keeping the disabled citizens prisoners in their own homes.

Vivian Armendariz said she invited the entire city council to go on a “ride along” with her in a wheelchair for one day. Council member Diggs Brown was the only one who stepped up to the challenge, Armendariz said.

“It was last November, the day before the second reading,” she said. “We started at nine in the morning and our day went until 7 p.m. that night.”

Armendariz said Brown used an “ancient” wheelchair, and was exhausted about two or three hours into the day.

“Half way through the day I said he had proved himself and that he could throw away or leave the wheelchair, that would be fine,” she said. “He said no, he made a promise to me and he would stick with it. And he did.”

Armendariz said she thinks Brown has a new appreciation for the disabled community because of that day.

Yvonne Longacre spoke passionately to the council about the disabled community. She also said that she thought not providing evening transportation kept people prisoners in their own homes.

“We need around the clock services for the bus,” she said.

Mayor Doug Hutchinson stressed that the Dial-A-Ride program is coming out of one time reserves.

Armendariz said she isn’t really surprised. She said this is the third year the community has had to fight for the program.

“The budget is focused on your needs,” Hutchinson said. “Any part of the budget can be changed until November 20.”

The Fort Collins City Council also discussed funding for affordable housing and helping low income families in the Fort Collins area.

Assistant news editor Nikki Cristello can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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