Senior center seeking funding for HVAC project, Transportation on Demand services

by Kate Evans

Senior Life Services of Morgan County is waiting for additional funding to come through to fix the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system in half of their building.  The group is also tracking options for money to continue their Transportation on Demand program.

Senior Life Services  Executive Director Tammy Kees said the county agency was able to coast through last summer using portable air conditioning units in half of the building. Half of the building still had air conditioning.

The Senior Life Services building on Sand Mine Road houses the Berkeley Springs Senior Center  and agencies that include Morgan County Starting Points, WIC, Audibel, Shenandoah Behavioral Health and Life or Drugs, Tri-State Support.

Kees said that when she took over as director in 2018 that they basically had a non-functioning heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC).  She’s been working on fixing the situation.  They were able to put a temporary band-aid on the system with $30,000 that the senior center received from the Morgan County Commission.

Since then they’ve added portable air conditioning units to anyone in the office that requested them as well as in the activities areas and dining room, Kees said.  She noted that some areas and agencies in the building had air conditioning, some didn’t and some didn’t have adequate air conditioning.

During the winter of 2022-2023, Senior Life Services had enough funding to add heaters that came down from the ceiling and supplemented the heating that their building couldn’t cover.

Kees said that she applied for and was awarded a $325,000 Governor’s grant that will go toward repairing their HVAC system.  Kees also applied for a $400,000 congressional directed spending grant that has an 80/20 match.  She’s still waiting to hear back about the grant. They will fund their 20% match through grants for which she’s applying.

The grants could pay for  installing two new condensing units and two air handling units, which will cover half of the building, Kees said. The project would take up to two years to complete.  The other side of the building is working well, she said.

Kees said that a year ago in March that the estimate for the work that needed done was $642,000.  She’s not sure what the work will cost now.

Kees said Senior Life Services spent over $50,000 getting enough portable air conditioning units and adding heating units in the building.

Transportation on Demand                                                                                                                      The agency’s other funding priority is their bus service.

Kees said the  Transportation on Demand (TOD) program, which provides needed transportation for all ages close to Berkeley Springs, is still active. However,  the program won’t stay active unless she finds more money to operate it by January 31.

“We’re going to be running out of money because of increased demand,” Kees said.

They may be able to make it through February but that’ll be about it, she noted.

Kees said they get money for the Transportation on Demand program from the West Virginia Division of Multimodal Transportation Facilities.  The state had so many requests for vehicles that they didn’t have money to pay for staffing.

Riders that use TOD pay a small fee or their travel can be reimbursed through government benefits if tied to medical appointments.

Transportation on Demand is  offered in a localized area in Berkeley Springs from the Senior Life Services building  on Sand Mine Road to Cold Run Valley Road on U.S. 522 South.  Its route also encompasses Waugh Road on the East side, Cold Run Valley Road on the West side and Martinsburg Road from town to Rankin’s mobile home park.

Kees said their vehicles make roughly 400 local trips each month.  Most trips are for people to get to the grocery store, to the pharmacy or to get a ride to town.  There is a nominal trip fee.

Children under age 10 must be accompanied by an adult.  Children between age 10 and age 18 must have their guardian’s permission, Kees said.

Transportation on Demand began around 2016 or 2017 but it hasn’t been advertised much since they can’t keep up with the demand, Kees said.

If someone in the Transportation on Demand coverage area needs a ride, they can call 304-702-9090 Monday through Friday beginning at 8:00 a.m. daily. Transportation on Demand is not available  on weekends or on major holidays.

Kees said that Senior Life Services no longer does Medicaid transports since they don’t have enough of a work force.  It’s hard to meet the demand because the trips to specialists are to Cumberland, Hagerstown, Winchester and Martinsburg, even Morgantown.  If someone has dialysis, that’s three trips a week at three hours alone.  Cancer treatments could take a couple of hours, and there aren’t enough drivers to cover all of those needs.

Senior Life Services still does senior transportation with some 132-150 pickups a month to bring seniors to the Senior Center and then back home, Kees said.

There is a nominal cost per mile if seniors have medical appointments or need to go to a local medical pharmacy if its outside the Transportation on Demand range.

They presently have three drivers but have a few more vans that may be used by other staff for trips, Kees said.

“Our life enrichment director gets people on the move,” Kees said.

Kees said that Senior Life Services has been doing transportation for over 20 years and medical transportation for more than 25 years.

Kees said she’ll be applying for grants and other funding.  She’s hoping for positive outcomes on funding for both the HVAC project and the Transportation on Demand program.