Strait Area Transit chair John Dowling and executive director Jessie MacDonald reported good news during the annual general meeting on June 27.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Profits are up, expansion is underway, and those sitting around the table during Strait Area Transit’s annual general meeting last Thursday night seemed pleased with the direction of the local bus service.

“As our buses move ahead, so do we,” said SAT chair John Dowling.

At the meeting, Dowling detailing the progress SAT made in the last year. Very possibly, the biggest development was the busing service expanding into a new county.

“Apparently Jessie [executive director Jessie MacDonald] needed more work in her hectic day, and thorough her amazing job with us, began a new task of rolling buses into Victoria County,” Dowling said. “If all goes as planned, we will have two brand new accessible buses belonging to Victoria County Transit moving passengers next month.”

With Victoria soon to be connected to the SAT route, MacDonald said future expansion is planned for Margaree. With that, SAT is actively looking into partnering with Cheticamp’s community transit service, L’Acabie.

“It’s been a very busy year,” she said. “Growth continues in each area of the business; ridership is up, totalling over 21,000 one-way trips this year, as well as almost 7,000 charter passengers.”

In addition to expansion, she mentioned a number of achievements.

SAT’s five-year business plan and a review of by-laws were completed, with the help of members of the co-operative council. A brand new accessible bus was purchased, and a provincial dispatch system is being worked on.

“We all understand what vital part transportation plays in our rural communities,” she said. “It is encouraging to have the support of the province, as well as the Municipalities of Inverness, Richmond, and the Town of Port Hawkesbury.

“With the continued support of these partners, I know we can continue to see growth of Strait Area Transit, as well as positive changes in our communities.”

In terms of dollars and cents, the service brought in total revenue of $830,278.49 while paying out $661,486.55, resulting in a fairly healthy bottom line. The service is reporting a net income of $168,791.94.

Payroll ($390,073.34) was where SAT paid out the heaviest chunk of change, with other expenses including gas ($114,738.69), depreciation ($35,790.11), insurance ($25,588.89), marketing ($13,231.39), and repairs ($12,830.85). A great number of administration and operating expenses were detailed by MacDonald.

SAT saw $50,587.33 worth of fares from Inverness County, $44,201.90 from Richmond, and $26,237.54 from other fares. Charter revenue topped out at $67,136.25. Inverness County contributed $140,000, Richmond came across with $100,000, and Port Hawkesbury put forward in-kind contributions of office space.

The provincial government also put forward a considerable amount of money through grants and funding from the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage, which added up to $397,381.

Other matters handled at the meeting included a motion that saw Potlotek CAO Crystal Nicholas named vice chair of the group. The executive includes Dowling as chair and Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton as secretary/treasurer.

Also mentioned was that a new SAT logo and Web site will be launched in the near future, and a GPS tracking system is also planned for the buses. A salary increase is being discussed for the bus drivers.

MacDonald said lots of positives can be mentioned in relation to SAT, but it’s interaction with folks that really hits home. One of those instances happened when a man dropped by the SAT office at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre not long ago – just to say thanks.

“Over Christmas, he had been diagnosed with cancer and he didn’t have a very good survival rate,” MacDonald said. “On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst, he was a nine. We took him to 47 treatments, and he thanked us. He’s at a .06 out of 10 now.

“Sometimes you take someone for groceries, sometimes you take them to see their friends, and sometimes you save lives.”