Statistics & News
Sgt. Tyler Nolan of the Fulton Police Department and FCTA Meals Driver Joey Griffith deliver a meal to a Fulton resident Thursday morning.
Teamwork gets seniors a hot meal
According to an old saying, “teamwork makes the dream work.” In Fulton County, teamwork gets things done.
Thanks to a partnership between local law enforcement, the Senior Citizens of Fulton County and Fulton County Transit Authority, 72 trips were made to deliver hot meals and warm visits to some local seniors Thursday.
While watching a newscast on TV earlier this week, Capt. Allen Poole of the Fulton Police Department saw a segment about an area having difficulty delivering meals to senior citizens during the inclement weather that has almost shut down western Kentucky for more than a week. This broadcast made Poole wonder about the seniors in Fulton County.
“I called Kenney (Etherton, FCTA Executive Director) and offered for us to help,” Poole said referring to himself and other members of FPD,
Following Poole’s call, Etherton contacted Sandra Bolin, the interim director of Senior Citizens of Fulton County, and the duo came up with a plan to deliver meals on Thursday. Etherton also talked with two of FCTA’s meal drivers who didn’t hesitate to play a part in Thursday’s venture as well.
“This is teamwork on the part of local officials,” Etherton exclaimed. “This is one of the great things about living in a small community. We have caring people.”
Also joining in the meal delivery effort were Fulton County Sheriff Derek Goodson, Fulton County Deputy Dennis McDaniel and Sgt. Tyler Nolan and School Resource Officer T.J. Kirby from the Fulton Police Department. Goodson, McDaniel, and Kirby helped FCTA Driver Mickey Brockwell with delivery in Hickman while Poole and Nolan worked with FCTA Driver Joey Griffith in Fulton.
According to Bolin, the last hot meal that had been delivered from the Senior Citizens of Fulton County’s center in Hickman was on February 9.
“I’d been pacing the floor at home wishing we could do something for them,” Bolin admitted. “I was worried about them. We had been calling and checking on them, making sure they had food. Family and churches have helped get them ready for this because we knew it was coming. We just never thought it would get so bad here.”
In the three years she has served as interim director, Bolin said this was the longest that the senior center has been closed and the worst weather the area has seen in that time period.
Because Bolin lives on the “third layer of hills,” as she described it, Hickman Police Chief Tony Grogan drove her to the senior center to get the meals ready for delivery Thursday. Senior Citizens of Fulton Cook Valeria Buskirk has a four-wheel drive vehicle and drove herself in to work.
After Buskirk got the meal prepared, she and Bolin placed the food into divided containers and sealed them for delivery.
“I think this was wonderful,” Bolin said of Thursday’s delivery project. “We sent out hot meals and shelf-life meals so we wouldn’t have to have the danger of doing it tomorrow after everything ices over tonight.”
In all, 72 stops were made to deliver the senior meals in the Hickman and Fulton area. The deliveries are counted by trips rather than number of meals, Bolin explained. Around 11 a.m. Thursday, Poole said the team effort was going really well.
“The last lady we visited said she was surprised we were there,” Poole added. “I took another lady’s trash out for her.”
For Poole, joining in with this team effort was all a part of the police motto: “To Protect and To Serve.”
“We are just here to do what is right for the elderly and, with times like this, we want to play our part,” Poole said. “We have the ability and want to extend a hand whenever we can. It’s good to see these shut-ins, too, and check on them. Some of them don’t have family around and don’t have any contacts in the area.
“We could always add it to our duty to do welfare checks on them and help them out,” Poole added. “We are proud to be able to serve this community and they’ve been grateful to us. We are grateful for them.”
As COVID-19 has changed many things across the United States, it has changed requirements for senior meals as well. According to Bolin, the requirements to qualify for meal delivery during COVID is basically the person must be over 60 and unable to drive. Those seniors who can drive can pick up meals from the senior centers in Hickman and Fulton.
“We have drive by pickups when there is not snow on the ground,” Bolin added.
By definition, shelf-life meals, Bolin explained, are easy to prepare items the seniors can handle themselves. Thursday’s shelf-life meal consisted of a container of microwaveable beef stew, crackers, fruit, and juice to drink.
According to Bolin, a Commonwealth dietician sends menus for spring, summer, fall, and winter. The six-week menu provides all the nutrition the seniors need for a week. Thursday’s hot meal was prepared from that menu.
FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton (left) presents Christy Snow with her Employee of the Year award.
Snow named Employee of the Year
Christy Snow was named Fulton County Transit Authority Employee of the Year for 2020. Snow’s honor was announced by FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton recently in front of her Dispatch/Call Taking co-workers and several others. Employee of the Year is chosen from secret ballot voting by FCTA employees.
“It’s a team effort,” Snow said after finding out she was the recipient of the award. “I couldn’t do it without them (Dispatch/Call Takers).”
Recognized at FCTA for her high work ethic, Snow said she is just "work oriented" and "just does her job."
Snow definitely does her job - even in the throes of a COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has been a crazy year,” Snow said, smiling.
Snow will mark her third year at FCTA in April 2021. She is currently Co-Dispatcher/Call Taker at the agency.
Born in Fulton, she is the daughter of Walter and Freda Boquette. She is married to Michael Snow. They have three children: Elizabeth, Brandon, and Alayna.
FCTA proudly serves Fulton, Hickman, Graves, and Carlisle counties. #TeamTransit
Demand Response hours reduced
An operational change has come to Fulton County Transit Authority as the agency has reduced its Demand Response service hours.
Beginning Thursday, December 3, Demand Response service hours will move to 7 a.m. until 4 p.m Monday through Friday.
“We will continue to pick up the ones on the schedule who are going to work and are on the standing orders,” said FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton. “The reduction in hours is due to FCTA not having sufficient staff to cover the hours of DR service and the reduction in seat capacity in our vehicles.”
According to Etherton, medical trips, life sustaining trips and Medicaid trips will not be impacted by the changes in service hours. Saturday Holiday Shopping, which is slated to begin this Saturday, will not be affected either as those Demand Response trips are on a limited basis for a designated period of time.
FCTA proudly serves Fulton, Hickman, Graves, and Carlisle counties.
Fulton County Transit Interim Operations Manager/Human Resources/Safety Manager Paul Maxwell installs a new air purifier in the main office building at Fulton. The same air purifier was also installed in the Maintenance building, HR building, and at the FCTA office building in Mayfield. Funding for the air purifiers came from a CARES Capital Grant.
Transit awarded two grants
Two grants totaling almost half a million dollars will improve operations at Fulton County Transit Authority immensely.
FCTA received a $248,000 5339 Capital Grant for FY 21-22 to replace four cutaway 12/2 passenger vehicles.
“Replacing the four vehicles definitely helps keep our fleet operational,” explained FCTA Executive Director Kenney Etherton when announcing the grants.
“We need to replace three to five cutaways a year to keep a healthy fleet,” Etherton added.
The new vehicles will be utilized in Fulton, Hickman, Graves and Carlisle counties, the areas where FCTA primarily and proudly serves.
The 5339 Capital Grant is 80% federally funded. Etherton stated that will the dissolution of the toll credit program, FCTA will have to produce 20% of the grant monies.
Gov. Andy Beshear recently announced the other funds awarded to FCTA through the CARES Act.
“We’re excited about the Governor’s announcement of $198,150 under capital funding in the CARES Act,” Etherton said. “This funding will update FCTA’s technology which will include a server, tablets and replacement of a 30- year-old phone system.”
In addition to enhancing communication between the FCTA base and all Transit vehicles in the field, the tablets will push out training programs for better social distancing. Etherton also said the new phone system will finally tie all of the three FCTA offices together.
“All of the new technology not only improves our operations during COVID-19 and similar events, but will allow employees to work from home easier and better during inclement weather times. Especially the scheduling department to prevent them from having to get out and risk their lives coming to the office,” Etherton said.
With the new server, Etherton said that will allow FCTA to do away with several pieces of equipment and envelope it all into one unit. Providing the electronic tablets to FCTA drivers will give them access to information more quickly and efficiently and do away with reams and reams of paperwork they receive on a daily basis.
According to Etherton, FCTA leaders have learned during COVID-19 the importance of being able to work from home and found some of the weaknesses within the agency’s operations to improve upon.
“This money not only allows us to fix our operational weaknesses, it helps us to be better at what we do overall,” Etherton said.
Other funds within the CARES Act award will allow FCTA to better protect office staff in replacing and improving air changing units, replacing old carpeted with newer vinyl and tile flooring.
Two groups of Fulton County Transit Authority employees had the opportunity to take the first of two COVID-19 vaccination doses recntly. The groups were given the Moderna vaccine and will return in 28 days to take the second dose.
FCTA employees are considered on the front lines of those working during the time of COVID-19 since the agency transports people to doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities daily.
The choice to take the vaccines was purely voluntary after the opportunity came up for FCTA employees to receive them. Being administered the vaccine is a proactive way to give those working at FCTA a better chance to not contract the virus.
According to the World Health Organization, two key reasons to get vaccinated are to protect ourselves and to protect those around us. Because not everyone else can be vaccinated – including very young babies, those who are seriously ill or have certain allergies – they depend on others being vaccinated to ensure they are also safe from vaccine-preventable diseases. Another group of FCTA employees took the first dose of vaccine Monday afternoon, January 4.
Driver Kim Rust
Driver Supervisor Frank Glisson
Call Taker Rex Valentine (above) and Driver Jo Ann Gardiner (below)
Pass helps employees, employers
Workforce members in the four counties served by Fulton County Transit Authority have an alternative way to get to work. Called a “Ride to Work Pass,” FCTA has been offering the program since April 1, 2019.
“The idea came from Mr. Kenney (Etherton, FCTA Executive Director),” explained FCTA Operations Manager Joy Johnson. “He had been working with several industries in helping get employees to and from work.”
The program is only available in the county in which the worker resides. In other words, a worker in one county cannot use the pass to get to their job in another county.
“If you live in Fulton County the cost of your monthly transportation from your residence to work and from work back to home would be $80 per month,” Johnson said. “In Carlisle, Hickman and Graves counties, it would cost you $100 per month.
Individuals may purchase a pass each month, Johnson said, or companies may purchase them for their employees.
“You can obtain them by calling FCTA at 270-472-0662 Extension 3 and talking with our billing clerk, or by stopping by our main office at 302 Eastwood Drive in Fulton,” Johnson added.
There are two ways a worker can set up the Ride To Work rides once the pass is purchased.
Trips that aren’t scheduled ahead of time – called Demand Response by FCTA – may be phoned in to FCTA’s Dispatch team daily by dialing 270-472-0662 Extension 1 and asking for a pickup each time the worker needs a ride. These should be done shortly after 6 a.m. on the morning the worker needs a ride to allow as much time for FCTA to get a driver there as close to work time as possible.
The best way to ensure a daily pickup on time – especially if the worker’s schedule remains the same – is to call 270-472-0662 Extension 2 to speak with a FCTA Scheduler. At that time, the Scheduler will set the worker up on what FCTA calls a Standing Order Trip. This will keep the worker on a revolving time frame and keeps them from having to call in every day to set up a ride
Benefits of the Ride to Work Pass program, according to Johnson, is cost efficient, safe, and reliable transportation for area workers.
“I really do think this is one of our better programs,” Johnson added. “It has really been beneficial to the surrounding communities. When you think about the cost of a vehicle, cost of fuel, cost of insurance, and what it takes to keep a vehicle on the road, it really is the best way to go to work.”
Kayser Automotive Systems, a Fulton industry, has incorporated the FCTA Ride to Work Pass into its benefits package.
“One thing that Kayser finds a lot is local employees with transportation issues,” explained Chris Pane, Kayser’s Human Resources Manager. “We have a point system so it’s critical that they get to work and get to work on time.”
According to Pane, when FCTA started the Ride to Work program, Kayser became interested in it to have a reliable system to help their employees with transportation to and from work when needed.
“We have an avenue to provide transportation now where we couldn’t go out and pick them up ourselves,” Pane said. “We purchase the passes and give them out to employees whether it’s for a short time or daily. We have about six employees who rely on it. The passes are part of the benefits we offer.”
Employees who have vehicle issues and can’t get themselves to work prior to their shift on any given weekday now have an alternative way, according to Pane, to get there by using a Ride To Work Pass. This, too, alleviates absenteeism at the industry and helps the employee to keep their point system intact.
Breaking mandate monotony
Driver provides humor during pandemic
One Fulton County Transit Authority driver is taking the COVID-19 mandates at work seriously while having a little fun with one of them in the process.
Jo Ann Smith Gardiner uses the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided by FCTA for her job, but Gardiner has chosen some unusual masks to protect her while driving one of the agency’s vehicles.
“With these mask mandates, all I hear out there is how we have lost our freedom because they make us wear them,” Gardiner said. “Everywhere you look, you see the blue or the handmade masks on people who follow the guidelines. We were out here looking alike in our masks, most were complaining, and nobody was laughing anymore.”
That’s when Gardiner decided to take matters into her own hands, well, face rather.
“One day I was on down time waiting on a client to finish with their appointment. I went in 5 Star (Food Mart) in Paducah and there, by the door, was this made-up, puckered lips mask. It was just calling out to me, so I bought it and put it on. Everyone I came in contact with really laughed and commented on that mask,” Gardiner explained. “I then posted it on Facebook and got even more comments. Not once did I hear ‘they are taking our freedoms.’ All I was hearing was laughter and good comments.”
Because of these reactions, Gardiner returned to the convenience store on another run to Paducah and purchased even more of the funny masks.
“I’ve been trying to wear a different one every day, posting my face all over Facebook, and having fun with the clients and everybody in the places I go in to,” Gardiner said. “I’ve not had one bad comment, but lots of laughs.”
Quickly admitting she isn’t making fun of the “horrible pandemic” in America, Gardiner says she’s just having a little fun within the process of it all.
“Laughter makes a bad situation a little easier to tolerate,” Gardiner explained.
Gardiner, who will mark her second anniversary at FCTA in October, said her coworkers have been supportive of her personal project.
“I’ve had them ask, ‘What kind of mask are we going to wear today?’ I tell them to stay tuned because I have plenty of them,” Gardiner said. “I have some of the best coworkers and their laughter makes it even more fun wearing the masks.”
Other motorists along the roadways where Gardiner carries clients “going and coming” their way have noticed her various masks as well.
“I’ve been getting lots of horn blows and waves so, all in all, it’s been great,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner has no plan to return to a plain mask anytime soon.
“I hope I don’t ever go back to just the plain mask,” Gardiner said. “I hope that as long as this mandate lasts, I will have enough masks.”
Although she’s not seeking mask donations, Gardiner said if any talented local artists want to create some unusual ones to add to her collection, though, she will gladly wear them.
So, what happens when wearing masks is no longer part of Gardiner’s workday?
“As much fun as we have been having, I may even miss my masks when they lift the mandate and I have to go back to no face clothing,” Gardiner said, laughing. “When they have to see my bare face again that could get boring because my face stays the same old face.”
Until then, Gardiner says to stay tuned and keep watching for new masks as she gets ready to roll every day.
FCTA Operations Manager Joy Johnson is one of the people enjoying Gardiner’s mask project.
“I love that Jo Ann has turned this pandemic into something positive,” Johnson said. “It is very refreshing to see how she’s spreading kindness and joy. I must admit I, too, tune in for the mask of the day! #teamtransit”
Amtrak will design, build local station
“I can literally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” exclaimed Kenney Etherton after receiving word that a long-awaited community project is finally coming into fruition.
Several years ago, the Fulton County Transit Authority Executive Director took over leadership for the local efforts to construct a new Amtrak station to replace the current one that needed too many repairs. Now the project is becoming a reality.
“We are excited that we are working on an agreement with Amtrak to design and construct a new station,” Etherton revealed. “Amtrak will be bearing the costs of design and construction of the station at its current location”
Fulton City Manager Mike Gunn knows a partnership of any kind with Amtrak is a positive for the area.
“Whether it’s a new station or enhanced services, we are truly proud to have been a part of this project with Amtrak to raise the bar for rail traveling visitors to the City of Fulton,” Gunn said. “This station enhancement will be something that improves their customers’ experiences and should bring in traveling visitors to our community which helps drive the region’s economy.”
Etherton also believes the new station will make an invaluable impact on the community.
“It will be, without a doubt, a much-needed improvement in our community and make it a more attractive place for people to get off the train in Fulton,” Etherton added.
Jeff Campbell, a Fulton native and owner of The Meadows Hotel, has worked on the project and is thrilled it will soon be heading toward the construction stage.
“I am so very pleased to welcome the news that Amtrak has committed to enter into an agreement to build a new passenger train station in Fulton,” Campbell said. “Funding and architectural plans are scheduled for 2021 with construction targeting in 2022.”
Since one of the local fundraisers for the new station involved a permanent structure at the site, Etherton said he has requested that a space be made for the engraved bricks that display names of former and retired IC, CN and Amtrak employees.
“We have asked Amtrak that, in the design phase, space is set aside for the engraved bricks,” Etherton explained. “Amtrak has asked us to use local funds that were donated for signage for station and beautification, lighting, and landscaping.”
Campbell recognized those supporting the station efforts who remained on target to achieve the goal.
“My congratulations to Kenney Etherton and the Fulton County Transit team for their persistence in pushing this to completion after a four-year journey too long,” said Campbell. “All local funds raised, along with the memorial bricks, will be incorporated into the project.”
According to Etherton, tenacity was the key for this project.
“It has been, without a doubt, one of the most frustrating projects I’ve ever worked on,” he explained. “Patience and diligence have prevailed.”
TEAMWORK - This graphic, provided by Purchase Area Regional Transit, offers various statistics and testimonials from Murray-Calloway County Transit, Paducah Area Transit System and Fulton County Transit Authority. Read the graphic carefully to learn more about each agency and how they work together to provide transportation for those in the Purchase Area.