TRURO – After more than 30 years in Truro, the Disabled Consumers Society of Colchester is closing.
Society board members confirmed the impending closure with the Truro Daily News on Wednesday. The society has been in existence for 33 years and operates one bus for people with disabilities as well as bingo on Prince Street.
“The bus service is closing on Feb. 14. There’s just no money to run it,” board member Larrie Stevens told this paper, adding it costs $100,000 a year to run the bus.
Stevens could not confirm how much it costs to operate the society
in total, but he did say there are two bus drivers, a dispatcher and bingo hall cleaner who are paid staff.
“Bingo pays for the bus but bingo is losing too much money,” Stevens said.
Lillian Orr, vice-chairwoman of the society and founding member, said, “every night that (bingo hall) was full, seven or eight years ago,” with at least 450 people.
“There are 80 people most nights now. It used to be seven nights a week, now it’s four (Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday).”
Stevens said one reason for the closure is competition from Legends Gaming Centre, which opened in Millbrook in December 2012.
“We immediately started to feel it,” he said.
Willis Belliveau, another board member and a founding member of the society, said the end was imminent.
“We would’ve been able to hold our own until Legends,” Belliveau said, adding Legends has the advantage because “they don’t pay taxes, offer hot meals and have a smoking room.”
There are other reasons behind the closure, board members said. The society is down to a few volunteers, there isn’t incoming rent from other groups that used to rent the bingo hall, and taxes and bills are an issue. According to board members, the building’s fuel bill for December was $3,500 and the tax bill for six months is $7,000.
“It’s terrible to see it go under … there’s been a lot of hard work, time and effort into it,” said Belliveau. “This group was founded to help disabled people and to help them with school, medication, equipment … we’ve also given bursaries and helped a lot of people in the community.”
Orr said the bus service will be missed.
“We need this bus on the road. A lot of people will be hurt and upset. This cuts a hole in our heart,” said Orr, adding the Monday to Friday bus service was used by individuals, the private sector, various organizations and day cares.
“People won’t be able to get out,” said Orr. She hopes the Town of Truro and Colchester County will came to the society’s aid.
“I’m going to keep trying. Maybe they will give us a grant or something,” Orr said.
Truro Mayor Bill Mills said the closure is disappointing but there is hope for people who use the bus service.
“There are duplicating services in our community. Bus consumers will not be left with nothing … there’s CTCL and Colchester Transportation,” said Mills.
The mayor said he can see why the society is struggling.
“I’ve heard there are easier ways to gamble these days and there’s competition,” he said, adding if the society comes before town council, they will be heard.
“Council is struggling with a lot of different things … (but) if presented, council will have to look at it,” Mills said.
Colchester County Mayor Bob Taylor could not be reached for comment by press time. No one answered phone calls to Legends, either.