Bumpy ride for CRT

Sunday June 9, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The Board of Directors at Connecticut River Transit, the company that runs Brattleboro's municipal bus service and other bus lines throughout Windham County, has declined to renew the contract of former Executive Director Mary Habig.

The board is bringing on the Deerfield Valley Transit Association to help manage the day-to-day operations at the Rockingham-based bus company while the search for a new director is held

Board President Ted Reeves said the board has been in close contact with the Vermont Agency of Transportation over the past few weeks and he said DVTA staff will be in the Rockingham offices Monday to help CRT employees there with the transition.

"They will be there on an inter management basis, part time, for the next five weeks," Reeves said Sunday. "They will be there to help manage the operations and they will report to the board."

Reeves declined to say anything about why Habig's contract was not renewed.

Under Habig's leadership, CRT received criticism for the way the company made changes to the bus routes in Brattleboro recently.

The company did not have printed maps or new schedules when the routes were changed recently and many riders expressed confusion and frustration when the Brattleboro bus routes and stop times were first shifted.

The CRT web site still has a rider alert for Feb. 18, Presidents' Day.

CRT is a nonprofit transportation organization that was established in 2003 to manage bus transportation for Windham and Windsor Counties.

VTrans chose CRT to run the transportation system in southeastern Vermont in 2004.

The organization had a $1.17 million budget in 2010.

Reeves said the board is going to look for a full time executive director to replace Habig.

"We believe we still have a strong operation," said Reeves. "We are not concerned a bit about service. We have plans and believe it has a bright future."

An anonymous source said it appears as though the decision to not renew Habig's contract was made in May.

At least two longtime employees abruptly quit recently, the source said, and CRT almost lost vital grant funding during the transition.

Habig's contract ran through June, but the board called a special meeting on June 7 where Habig was told about the board's decision.

In a letter sent to the staff later that day, Reeves acknowledged that the CRT staff did not support the decision, though he said the board had received information about Habig's leadership that led to the dismissal.

"We can assure you that this was a decision that was not made lightly and was made after a lot of information was brought to the board," Reeves wrote to the employees at CRT. "In making the decision the board has acted to support the work that has been accomplished to date, and to continue to support CRT as a business with a bright future."

According to the letter CRT has been working with the Agency of Transportation and with Deerfield Valley Transit Association for three weeks about how to manage CRT.

In the letter Reeves said DVTA staff members Randy Shoonmaker and Jan Terk will be in the offices in Rockingham Monday.

He said DVTA staff will work with CRT until July 12.

"The CRT board board believes that having Randy, Jan, and the rest of the DVTA staff as a resource will help CRT to continue to function without interruption during that period," Reeves wrote. "The CRT board expects that all staff will work cooperatively with DVTA while they are on site."

Reeves also said that VTrans staff members will have a more prominent presence in Rockingham during the transition.

An interim director, Mike Filipiak of Springfield, will start on June 17 and work with DVTA during the transition.

Reeves wrote that Filipiak will work with CRT until the contract with DVTA expires on July 12 when a new director comes on board.

The anonymous source said the staff has submitted a petition in support of Mary and the staff member said there have been no reasons given for the board's decision not to renew Habig's contract.

"The CRT board recognizes that this is not an easy time," Reeves wrote to the CRT employees. "We ask that you work with us and we promise that we will do our best to support CRT and keep it as a model rural transit provider in Vermont."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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