BRATTLEBORO -- Some Bellows Falls residents have expressed frustration over an ensuing reduction in services from Connecticut River Transit despite the nonprofit receiving more than $1 million once designated for their village.
Bellows Falls Trustee Deborah Wright said multiple citizens are upset that CRT will decrease the number of out-of-town medical trips it provides from eight per month to four, even though it will be able to construct a proposed park-and-ride off Exit 6 with the $1.3 million earmarked by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Wright said some people are unhappy that money set aside for them will make its way to a public transit provider that will reduce its services effective Sunday, July 1.
Mary Habig, executive director of CRT, said the money belongs to Rockingham. She said the number of out-of-town medical trips provided to elderly and disabled individuals fluctuates every year based on the amount of funding CRT receives. She said as few as two rides per month have been provided in the past.
The decision was made in June at a stakeholders meeting of Vermont’s elderly and disabled transportation program, Habig said.
CRT, which Habig said also receives money from the 30 towns it serves, provides certain people with rides to medical appointments when they are unable to get there any other way. Habig said the service is for people 60 years or older and those with a disability that affects one major life
She said CRT has seen a hike in the number of individuals needing the service and has cut in half its quantity of out-of-town medical trips each person can get to ensure "everybody gets a piece of the pie."
Habig said people needing treatments like chemotherapy will still receive as many trips as necessary.
"We just have to spread the dollar," she said. "And that’s what we’re doing."
At a joint meeting of the Rockingham Selectboard and Bellows Falls Board of Trustees on May 29, Habig said CRT hired Tom Appel months ago as municipal manager for the planned facility and an extension on the building.
The park-and-ride, set for a one-and-a-half-acre piece of land, will also have a paved parking lot, though Habig said it is still very much in the planning stages.
Habig said it would have spots for at least 90 vehicles and a 4,600-square-foot facility for bus storage. When Trustee Andrew Smith asked if there was a need for an indoor space for the buses, Habig said not having one would invite crime, expose the buses to the harsh elements of Vermont weather and increase the risk of vandalism.
She said the park-and-ride will be used to help promote business in the village, as employees will suggest restaurants, retail stores and lodging facilities to customers and tourists.
Habig later said CRT built a facility a few years ago in anticipation of the proposed park-and-ride. That facility has bathrooms and fliers and brochures to advertise local businesses, she said..