Many elected officials and MDOT personnel attended the 40th Anniversary Open House and luncheon Friday afternoon at the Clare County Transit Corp. building. Those officials and state employees know how important a public transport system is to a community and offered their kudos and congratulations.
Tom Pirnstill began the program with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a prayer from Pastor Ron Callen of the Community Baptist Church in Harrison. Callen is also a driver for the CCTC.
Outlining the Transit’s history and mission, Pirnstill said that when two buses were purchased in 1981 and placed under a lean-to at a gas station, the Clare County Transit began. In 1983 MDOT joined the Transit and, according to Pirnstill, without MDOT the transit would not exist.
Pirnstill jokingly referred to MDOT as the transit’s “Mom and Dad,” and emphasized the strong support it receives from MDOT. In fact, 20% of the CCTC capital funding comes from MDOT.
Pirnstill had the highest praise for the drivers, dispatchers, and other CCTC employees. Citing difficulties that affected everyone during the pandemic, he noted challenges the transit also faced.
“The Clare County Transit proved to be a reliable and essential services during these unprecedented times,” he said. “We never closed down transportation in Clare County. We provided temporary prescription and grocery deliveries for those who were home bound free of charge. Our service also provided transportation for those who could not stay home by taking universal precautions to ensure the safety of our passengers and our drivers.”
Pirnstill went on to explain how the Transit provides more than just rides; its community assistance is often invaluable and even a matter of life and death.
“Our drivers are really conscientious,” he said. “They know their riders. We have prevented a few scams in the last few years. Wellness checks: we have no problem if the customer is not there when the bus is there and something is weird, we call the Sheriff Department so they can do a wellness check.
“We do a lot more than just drive a bus and provide a service.” Drivers often act as the eyes and ears around Clare County; reporting fires, accidents and assisting emergency responders when needed.”
Congressman John Moolenaar was in attendance and presented Pirnstill and the CCTC with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition.
“Thank you for all you do,” Moolenaar said. “It’s remarkable, when I learned about the work you were doing, especially through COVID helping people with medicine, food, and keeping people safe in so many ways.”
State Sen. Rick Outman presented Pirnstill and the CCTC with a tribute from himself, Rep. Jason Wentworth, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“He [Tom] is a tireless advocate for the people in this county and in particular for transportation,” said Outman. “He’s always at our breakfasts in Lansing. I appreciate our friendship.”
Melissa Fruge, representing U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, also spoke at the event.
“Sen. Stabenow regrets that she couldn’t be here to celebrate today with you and commend you on 40 years of exceptional service to Clare County,” Fruge said. “She was very excited to learn about the investments you’re making in renewable energy and the electrification of your fleet.”
Jeff Haskell, the chair of the Clare County Commissioners also congratulated the CCTC.
“On behalf of Clare County, we want to say congratulations on 40 years and say what a joy it is to work with you. It’s seamless and the stuff you’re involved in goes very well.”
Also in attendance were County Commissioner Sandy Bristol, and Lori Martin, Clare County clerk/register of deeds. Pirnstill praised the support of the county and the millage voted on by the people of Clare County. Bristol sits on the CCTC board.
Rides and tours were also available of two electric. Two electric buses will be acquired by the end of 2022 to begin the transition to electric. The CCTC already has 352 solar panels that generate power for the building. In addition, solar thermal panels were added in 2013 that heat water in the building. The transit also partnered with the DNR to establish a pollinator field for bees and other wildlife.