However, the county judge added, this recent development also begs the question: What happens now?
The BCAA network operated for nearly 37 years but recently closed when the Bee County Commissioners Court voted voluntarily to relinquish all its programs as of June 4. In addition to Live Oak and Bee, BCAA also served Aransas and Refugio counties.
All programs relinquished by the agency have been assumed by the Alice-based Rural Economic Assistance League Inc. Services such as Transportation and Head Start continue in Live Oak County and the county’s transportation program is now provided by REAL based in Jim Wells County. Real provides transportation services to Live Oak, Bee, San Patricio, Refugio, Aransas, Brooks and Jim Wells counties.
It is always difficult to compensate for the loss of community organizations such as BCAA—which are complex and fueled by federal and state grants with the service delivery area they support providing local funds.
“BCAA has been a part of Live Oak County since they began in many facets,” Judge Huff said. “We have had in place agreements to provide the HeadStart Program, transportation program, and meals on wheels program. Meals for our seniors were originally prepared and delivered door to door by BCAA. Years later, we picked up the meals from them and delivered them. Now our meals program and congregate site runs completely in house.”
REAL Director Martin Ornelas told the Refugio County Press he doesn’t predict any major changes with the transition—although new routes could be added and a change from three to five days is under consideration.
Ornelas said his agency is using special software expected to save 40 percent while increasing services.
“It’s amazing what technology can do,” Ornelas said.
(To contact REAL, incidentally, call 361-668-3158.)
The loss of the BCAA places an even greater emphasis on the work of a local group already discussing and identifying local transportation needs, Huff said.
“Approximately oneand-a-half years ago, Live Oak County supported a grant to study transportation needs in the two most under served counties in the Coastal Bend, Live Oak and Refugio,” the judge said. “The work on assessing our needs and ways to fill those needs are ongoing with the results forthcoming very soon. I asked a group of local citizens who represent fields from education to health care and elected officials to identify needs for transportation.”
This work group meets monthly, and their progress indicates expanding the current program in any number of ways is very possible.
“While transportation to medical appointments remains a priority and continues, transportation to Coastal Bend College for our students as well as local trips to the store are just two more of the many possibilities,” Huff said.
Ben Tinsley is a reporter for The Progress newspaper in Three Rivers. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 361-786-3022. Tinsley can also be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BenTinsley, Google at http://plus.google.com/+BenTinsley or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ben.tinsley.12.