"The Current", operated by Connecticut River Transit, lets passengers on at its stop on Flat Street. (Reformer file photo)
"The Current", operated by Connecticut River Transit, lets passengers on at its stop on Flat Street. (Reformer file photo)
Thursday November 8, 2012

BRATTLEBORO - At Tuesday night's meeting, the Selectboard got an update from Connecticut River Transit on the company's recent changes to the bus schedule which have been causing confusion and anger from among its riders.

CRT took over the Brattleboro Bee Line route from the town about two years ago, and while the town is no longer involved with the day-to-day operations, Brattleboro does give the company $50,000 to help subsidize bus service.

In October, CRT made changes to its schedule and Town Manager Barbara Sondag said she has been fielding numerous calls from riders who are complaining about the changes.

CRT Operation Manager Brian Waterman tried to explain to the board why the company made the changes.

Sondag said she is hearing from riders who are having to wait at the transportation center, but Waterman said the new wait is actually shorter than the amount of time riders had to wait before the change.

He said the company could only do so much with the funding it received, though he admitted that the company could have done a much better job getting out information about the new schedule. Waterman even said CRT still had the old schedule up on its website, which the Selectboard members said had to be fixed soon.

CRT has completely changed how the buses travel through Brattleboro, and instead of a single bus traveling from West Brattleboro and up Putney Road, the buses now drop riders off at the transportation center so they can catch a transfer.

Brattleboro resident and CRT user Paula Melton came out to the meeting to say that the new schedule is not useful for people who work during the day, and she also said the company did not do a good job telling its riders about the new schedule.

The company held public information hearings this summer about the changes, but there are still no schedules available.

Selectboard Chairman Dick DeGray asked Waterman if the company has been considering the input from riders since the change.

He did point out that since CRT took over, the service and equipment has improved, but still he said the town was concerned with the recent dissatisfaction and hoped CRT would try to improve the situation.

DeGray said he supported the transfer that gave CRT control of the Brattleboro line, but he also asked Waterman to make sure CRT officials understood the town's concerns.

Waterman made no promises, but said he would work on the issues.

The board also took care of a few roadway issues.

The board unanimously approved installing three new meters on Canal Street, near the new Brattleboro Food Co-op, and it also agreed to extend plowing service along the south side of Western Avenue between Brookside and Melrose Bridge.

The Traffic Safety Committee recommended the change.

The board said it would be looking closer at its plowing schedule as it develops the 2014 budget in the coming months.

The board approved a $40,000 Small Business Assistance Program Loan for Zachary Corbin, who is purchasing Peter Havens from its current owner.

Corbin expects to close on the deal this week, make a few small renovations, and then have his new restaurant opened by mid-November.

The town is hoping to start a major $550,000 Main Street sidewalk project next year and the board authorized Sondag to enter into contract negotiations with Dufresne Group of Windsor, the company that will handle the contract.

The town is going to use a $300,000 VTRans grant, and another $250,000 in town money to replace about one-half mile of sidewalk along the East Side of Main Street near Key Bank.

The board approved new guidelines for its debt service and fund balance that were suggested by Finance Director John O'Connor.

Under the new guidelines the town will try to keep its indebtedness below $1,500 per capita and its debt service below 12.5 percent as a percentage of total general fund expenditures.

O'Connor wants the town to maintain a general fund balance of at least 10 percent of the general fund.

The board debated the guidelines, but ultimately agreed that they were only guidelines with the understanding that conditions sometimes demand different debt and balance amounts.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or at 802-254-2311 ext. 279.