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Porter, Youngstown step up search for new senior van

The Town of Porter and Village of Youngstown are looking for help in attaining a new senior van. The current van has close to 200,000 miles on it and recently required some expensive transmission repairs.

Porter Supervisor J. Duffy Johnston presented a $15,000 check to Youngstown Mayor Raleigh Reynolds recently for upkeep of the van, long shared by the two municipalities.

But he said he started looking for grant money for a new van over a year ago, while serving as a Porter Councilman. He recently became supervisor.

“We’ve been trying real hard,” Johnston said. “There are no buses out here, and that van helps people get to doctors’ appointments and for kidney dialysis, for example. Our drivers help the passengers in and out of the van, too.”

Johnson estimates a new van might run around $55,000 and said it would be subject to a the state bidding process.

“This van has 200,000 miles on it and how many times are we going to keep fixing it?,” he asked. “It’s a situation we have to fix.”

The town and village are working with state Sen. Robert G. Ortt’s office, as well as state Assemblyman Michael J. Norris, Reynolds said.

“It’s getting to the point that we desperately need a new van,” Reynolds said. “A number of people who use the van are elderly and don’t have any other way to get to doctor’s appointments or to pick up groceries. This is definitely a valuable and much-needed service.”

Johnston said he has long been in close contact with Ortt’s office, adding, “We thought this would fit into a health and safety grant last year, but we didn’t get the grant. Senator Ortt said he’d try and fit it into his budget this year. We’re hopeful. If not, we’ll go for a grant again.”

Johnston said the two municipalities would certainly welcome the donation of a van, as well.

“This is a courtesy the town and village provides to residents and there is no fee for them,” he said. “If people give a tip, that helps pay for gas or for upkeep. The $15,000 we set aside in our town budget to give the village is for van upkeep. We have a great rapport with the village mayor and trustees and we want to lend a helping hand to the village.”

Johnston estimates about 60 percent of the patrons using the van are town residents, while 40 percent live in the village. He said it’s a service that dates back decades.

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