RVTD could buy, revamp call center

A $1 million federal grant may allow Rogue Valley Transportation District to purchase a call center it has leased for 11 years, while RVTD also seeks to improve the center to offer transit options for disabled veterans.

RVTD's two-story, 7,800-square-foot call center at 239 E. Barnett Road costs $11,640 a month in lease payments. Part of the high cost of the lease is the computer technology packed into the building, which is situated behind Winco.

RVTD officials say savings from ending the lease payments could be plowed back into other transportation programs.

Julie Brown, general manager of RVTD, said the grant is conditional on appraisals and other factors before the building could be bought.

Another $50,000 grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would be used to upgrade the call center to help provide transportation for disabled veterans who need medical treatment in out-of-area facilities.

Areas such as Jackson County usually have a higher percentage of veterans than the national average of 23 percent of the population, according to RVTD.

Brown said Veterans Affairs is looking for more solutions to provide transportation for disabled veterans.

At the same time, Brown said, many veterans are reluctant to seek assistance locally.

"It's almost like they're saying they served their country and they don't want to ask for help now," she said.

The call center could coordinate several transportation programs under one roof.

A Medicaid patient and a veteran with a disability might share a ride on the same vehicle as they are transported to another part of the state. Other transportation agencies also would be involved in the ride-sharing program, she said.

"There will be a whole lot of coordination going on to bring down the cost of transportation," she said

RVTD would work with other agencies and volunteer groups that provide transportation to veterans who don't drive but need to make local trips, such as going to the store.

Veterans, low-income residents, older adults and those with disabilities would receive assistance through the call center, which hopes to provide one-stop shopping for people seeking transportation for food, medical treatment or other services.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

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