MyRide Coordinator Danae Watson presents her case for funding to members of the Johnson County Commission’s Budget Committee. At the time of this article, both the city and county plan to give $6,000 a piece, equaling $12,000 of the $30,000 MyRide asked for. Photo by Meg Dickens.
By Meg Dickens
MyRide Tennessee Johnson County reached out to local government officials earlier this month for help funding its program, the only form of public transportation available in this area. MyRide officials seemed disheartened when they heard the plan for both City and County to offer $6,000, equaling $12,000 accumulatively, before even setting foot inside the meeting room. After hearing this, the senior center decided to approach the county for the entire $30,000 as a budget line item to ensure the program’s future.
“I know this sounds like a lot of money, but I just want you to realize that these are people and not just numbers,” said MyRide Johnson County Coordinator Danae Watson. “These are seniors that could be your mother, it could be you, or your father.”
The most prominent source of confusion seemed to revolve around the monetary figures. According to both Watson and Senior Center Director Kathy Motsinger, the program costs $30,000 annually. They approached the town of Mountain City asking for half and planned to do the same with the county. According to City Mayor Jerry Jordan, the original plan was to offer $7,500, half of the proposed amount, and ask the county for the other half. Jordan reports the city was told $6,000 apiece would be sufficient when speaking to the county.
According to County Director of Accounts and Budgets Russell Robinson, the MyRide program has some remaining funds and has $10,000 through the CARES Act. That leaves a six-month gap after December in the fiscal year. The $12,000 is the “difference needed to fund the program for the rest of the year. “ Robinson offered to join MyRide in coming up with a sustainability plan and says its estimated 1,488 volunteer hours valued at $34,360 would go a long way towards showing the center’s contribution. He also noted that the funding needed to “be a combination of the city, county, corporate sponsorships, and donations.”
Robison says there is “enough corporate sponsorship in this area,” but Motsinger said the opposite in a recent interview. She explained that Johnson County is full of nonprofit organizations vying for donations for worthy causes. The senior center is constantly trying to raise funds but juggles various costs, including center operations, meal deliveries equaling more than neighboring counties combined, and the MyRide scholarship fund for those who cannot afford its services.
“We were hoping to have more money put in as a line item so we can know we have this program permanently because there is such a need for it,” Motsinger explained MyRide’s reasoning for adding a line item. “Unfortunately at the senior center, there are also other priorities.”
Upon hearing the funding news, several parties told The Tomahawk that funding this program should fall on the local government. As of 2019, Johnson County is home to approximately 5,500 seniors over age 60. Many seniors have trouble with transportation and reportedly skip out on medical care and medications because of that. Representatives from the senior center and former employees from Family Prescription confirm that a significant portion of their calls revolved around transportation needs. Multiple parties both presenting and being presented to called MyRide a “vital service” in this community.
Final decisions on all budgets will be decided shortly then presented to the County Commission for approval. Until then, nothing is set in stone. Other topics of discussion include an airport project, county employee raises, and possible new positions. Find out more about the Johnson County government at johnsoncountytn.gov. For more information on MyRide Tennessee Johnson County and the senior center, visit the Johnson County Senior Center Facebook page or call (423) 727-8883.