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Seniors need transportation

by Sheila Gardner

The No. 1 problem facing seniors in Douglas County and other rural areas is transportation. John Amundson, a member of the Nevada Silver-Haired Legislative Forum, is launching a letter-writing campaign to address the concern.

Amundson, of Minden, spent the last 18 months with his 20 colleagues evaluating the needs of Nevada’s seniors.

“Each of us sat down with our senators and said, ‘Here’s what we found.’ I sat down with Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, and said in Douglas County, transportation is the key issue. I am sure that did not surprise him. I said I would like to see him write a bill draft request to get some attention for this issue,” Amundson said.

Jacobsen introduced a bill that would provide dependable transportation for seniors and the disabled. Senate Bill 415 would provide the money to the Nevada Department of Transportation for disbursement to groups that provide transportation for the elderly and disabled.

“Sen. Jacobsen’s bill is tremendously visionary,” Amundson said. “Obviously, it’s going to help Douglas County, but it will benefit the entire state of Nevada. His vision and willingness to address the need from a statewide viewpoint is unique. He deserves a lot of credit for what he has done.”

Amundson said he realized that all the seniors in Douglas County and across the state aren’t able to visit their senior centers on a regular basis, and he wanted to make sure he talked to as many seniors as possible.

Amundson also talked with Kathy Maidlow, Douglas County’s director of senior services, Elaine Agnason of the Eldercare Coalition and Karen Goode, supervisor of Douglas County Social Services. Maidlow and Community Services Director Scott Morgan briefed him on the county’s 5-year transportation plan which addresses similar issues.

According to Amundson, 80 percent of the money for transportation could come from federal programs for the elderly and handicapped.

“It’s a well-known need in this county and in all the rural areas. Here’s an opportunity for us – maybe the first-time ever – to do something about it. It behooves the seniors, and anyone helping the seniors, to maintain as much independence as possible for them. The federal funding specifies money for machinery and operators, the stuff that hits the road,” Amundson said.

The Legislature is waiting to be advised by state fiscal officers on how much money is available.

“It’s unfortunate that our timing occurs when the state is faced with such a fiscal crisis. I have fond hopes, though, that the money will be available in a week or two,” Amundson said.

n Must be heard. “We’ve got to be heard. We need to have a letter-writing campaign,” he said. “It’s our only hope to get to those people who will be making the decisions. My view is that we have to overwhelm them to get heard, to compete for the money.”

Amundson, 73, retired from IBM after 32 years and moved to Minden.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said of his appointment to the Silver-Haired Legislative Forum. “It’s been fun and an educational process. It’s a bit frustrating because we have no money appropriated for us to continue to exist beyond this year. We’re meeting with Gov. Guinn to go over our report and ask whether he and the Legislature want us to continue to exist.”

The Nevada Silver-Haired Legislative Forum was created at the end of the 1997 legislative sessions. The 21 members represent the state’s senatorial and congressional districts.

Letters can be mailed to Sens. William J. Raggio, Raymond D. Rawson, Lawrence E. Jacobsen, Bob Coffin, Bernice Matthews and Joseph M. Neal, Jr., at the Senate Finance Committee, Legislative Building, 401 Carson St., Carson City, 89701-4747.

Gov. Kenny Guinn can be reached at the State Capitol Building, Carson City, 89701.

For information, contact Amundson at 782-8291.