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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 28, 2008

New Scotland looks to buy used Bethlehem bus to transport seniors

By Jo E. Prout

NEW SCOTLAND — Local seniors may soon have more flexible, and more comfortable, transportation, if the town board approves the purchase of one or two used buses from the senior program in Bethlehem.

The town board last week tabled a decision on the purchase until its next board meeting on Aug. 27. This week, Susan Kidder, the senior outreach liaison for the town, told The Enterprise that Bethlehem agreed to hold off on sending two buses to auction until the day after the New Scotland Town Board meeting.

“It’s a desperate need,” Kidder told the board last week.

She told the board that Bethlehem has two vehicles for sale. One, a 2000 Ford Econoline, has a wheelchair lift. The vehicle, with more than 81,000 miles, costs $2,500. The bus seats 12, with room for one wheelchair.

The second vehicle is a 2003 Ford Econoline with 14 bucket seats and no wheelchair lift. The bus has 56,000 miles and costs $3,000, Kidder said.

New buses cost $49,000, she said. If the second vehicle were modified with a wheelchair lift, the modification would cost about $4,000, Kidder said, but she noted that the cost of the second vehicle is less than that of the modification.

Board member Richard Reilly said that he would research whether or not the town must provide handicapped-accessible transportation to seniors, if the town owns the vehicle.

Kidder said that, this year, she has received 33 calls from seniors who need transportation to physical therapy or to visit spouses in the hospital. She said that seniors often need transportation to grocery stores.

“The bus might be a solution to our problem,” she said.

Kidder said that the owner of the New Scotland Auto Plaza examined the vehicles and recommended only minor work like brake replacement and an air-conditioning recharge.

“It’s in pretty good shape for what it is,” Kidder said.

Because of the size of the vehicles, anyone with a driver’s license can operate them, she said. The town of Bethlehem uses volunteer drivers, she said.

Liz Kormos, the chair of the senior services advisory board, reminded the board that the town recently received a grant of $11,500 with the help of county legislators, and that the board continues to look for aid.

“We have applied for a grant for a new bus,” Kormos said. The grant process will take about a year, she said. She favored the purchase of at least one of the used buses from Bethlehem.

“If it runs a year and dies, it’s been a good investment,” she said.

In a memo to the town board, Kidder wrote that the recent grant, combined with $10,000 budgeted for senior transportation by the town, and $1,000 raised by the Senior Citizens Club, totals $23,500.

“Personally, I’d love to have both of them,” Kidder told The Enterprise. “I think it’s an exceptional value.”

Kidder said last week that the senior program would also benefit from the donation of a four-door vehicle.

The board briefly discusses using a town-owned Geo Tracker that would soon be retired, but town employees said the Tracker would be too high off the ground to be useful.

“I do believe we need a car,” Kormos agreed.

Kidder told The Enterprise that an accessible four-door car would be the best type of vehicle donation.

 “We could have a car and a bus, something one person could drive in,” Kidder said. “It’d be much more cost-effective.”

Kidder told the town board that she can refer seniors to Community Caregivers, but that the service requires prior interviews and appointments. The service only helps those residents who live north of Route 443, Kidder said. Many town seniors are not eligible, she said.

“I have actually put my pen down and gone out and taken them, myself,” Kidder said.

She said that the program in Bethlehem asks for donations of $10 for rides out of the town, and $5 for rides within town limits. The program, she said, has broken even or profited from the donations.

Kidder has organized popular senior trips using rented or borrowed school buses. She said that some seniors barely fit on the seats, and that others cannot get into the bus at all.

Kormos said that Kidder has other, farther-reaching trips planned for town seniors, once a more practical vehicle is available.

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