Free transportation for local veterans to the Joliet VA clinic will now be provided by the Grundy Transit System.
The transit system and the Grundy County Veterans’ Assistance Commission have teamed up to continue to offer the service to veterans while saving money for the county. Previously the VAC offered this service.
“The VAC has had 60 percent growth over the last 18 months and with growth comes higher expenses,” said Ken Buck, superintendent of the VAC. “In cooperation with Grundy County to be more fiscally responsible, we are working with the Grundy Transit System.”
Because of the VAC’s growth, John Galloway, Grundy Finance Committee chairman, said the VAC was going to need another vehicle. So rather than purchase another and increase costs, the county decided to try to have the transit system offer some rides for veterans.
Currently the VAC provides free rides for veterans to the VA Joliet Community Based Outreach Clinic and to Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines. The transit system offers bus routes to Joliet for a fee.
Starting Friday the transit system will take veterans, for free, to the Joliet VA clinic and to any other medical appointments in Joliet. In addition, veterans will receive free rides to medical appointments within Grundy County as well.
The VAC will still provide the free rides to Hines. Veterans looking to utilize the transit system's other routes in Joliet, aside from the medical appointments, will have to pay the fee.
The arrangement is currently on a trial basis. Buck said the commission members want to review how it goes to make sure the veterans are still receiving a convenient service.
To schedule a ride to the Joliet clinic, veterans are asked to call the transit line at least a day in advance. If veterans would like to make other stops in Joliet, such as shopping, they will pay a fee for those routes, which is $4 one way from Grundy County to Joliet or $3 one way in Grundy County.
The transit bus runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For rides to Hines hospital, veterans still need to go through the VAC.
“We still operate two vehicles and part-time drivers and will continue to provide our service to Hines medical center,” Buck said.
The transit system was already going to Joliet multiple times a day so adding the veterans’ stop at the clinic just makes sense, Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson said. The transit system’s transportation is funded by a grant, which covers the drivers and gas so it is cheaper for the transit system to do the rides than the VAC, which is funded by the county.
“They are still getting the services they need, and we are saving the county money,” said Sherey Zerbian, director of the transit system. “On all levels the county is trying to cut costs without cutting services.”
The VAC recently sent letters to its regular veteran riders to inform them of the changes, Buck said.
Officials said the total savings that could be seen for the county is uncertain because it will depend on ridership. The county asked every department to cut their budgets to meet a balanced budget, Galloway said. If it could not, service cuts and layoffs were a possibility.
The budget is expected to be approved at the county’s November board meeting.
Rides for veterans:
Grundy Transit System:
Free rides to Joliet VA clinic.
Call 888-786-0862 to schedule a ride.
Grundy County Veterans' Assistance Commission:
Free rides to Hines VA Hospital.
Call 815-941-3152 to schedule a ride.