Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley.
Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said she received a number of concerned phone calls when she returned from a recent vacation.
Bartley, the freshman supervisor who chairs the transportation committee for Essex County, said some constituents called her concerned that the bus program had been eliminated.
“Very worried that we have already done away with our bus system,” Bartley said. “They are very concerned that the system is going away. Some have told me that they have been told by other supervisors that the buses are going away. The bus system is still here and it has not gone away.”
Bartley said that she felt the system was needed for residents in her town.
“I have constituents that are blind or impaired in other ways that cannot drive and they are very afraid,” she said.
Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said that while he had not told anyone the bus system has been stopped, he did let people know that he felt it may be in the future.
“I have told people that we have not cut the bus program yet but I am realistic with them,” he said. “You do not have the ridership and we just cannot afford to support it.”
Board Chairman and Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas said that, in his opinion, the issue came down to the amount of funding that the county would receive for the program.
“If the funding is cut back, then we have some hard choices to make,” Douglas said. “We can't absorb that cost. The bus services that we currently know them as could be substantially cut if the funding is cut back. We have to prioritize what our needs are during tough financial times.”
County Manager Daniel Palmer said that he was already working with Transportation Department Supervisor Nancy Dougal on the upcoming budget.
“I have a meeting to find out if the money that we are expecting from the state will still be there next year,” Palmer said. “Nancy has come up with plans to cut back so the deficit gets narrowed. There has been no discussion about ending the bus at this point. When you see the budget proposals for 2013, then it may be a discussion that you may have to have.”
Westport Supervisor Daniel Connell said that he had a concern that was similar to Bartley’s.
“I had a person come in and talk to me that works three days a week and if the program is cut, then they can’t work anymore,” Connell said. “We need some kind of public transportation. It may not be what we have now. We do need to have something there, but it is going to be a difficult situation to try and figure out how we are going to provide transportation while keeping the costs down.”
Newcomb Supervisor George Canon said that he felt the issue was a matter best left to town, and not county, governments.
“The county bus does not come to Newcomb,” Canon said. “The municipalities need to step up and provide some of these services like we do in our town.”