New county fare in Chatham and Ghent?

CHATHAM – Village Mayor Paul Boehme unveiled plans to create a shuttle bus between the hamlet of Ghent and the village center. “We’ll be able to bring people onto Main Street,” Mr. Boehme said at the Village Board meeting Thursday, March 11.

Jonathan Walters, the chairperson for the Town of Ghent Planning Board, said in an interview last week that he and representatives from the village and county have been talking about this plan for over a year. Right now the plan is to have a bus make 6 to 8 roundtrips a day, covering about 12 miles between Ghent and Chatham for each roundtrip. Proposed stops would be the public library on Woodbridge Avenue, Crellin Community Park on Route 66, Edgewood Acres and the Chatham Plaza, and, in Ghent, the physician’s office on Garage Place, Jones Avenue and the Dairy Queen. Mr. Walters thought the county might have a bus or two available for the town to use for the shuttle service. If buses are provided, then the cost for the shuttle, which Mr. Walters says is in the ballpark of $100,000, would be for gas, drivers’ salaries and maintenance.

But one of the people Mr. Walters consulted during the planning process for the bus service was Kenneth Flood, commissioner of the Columbia County Planning/Economic Development Office, and he was cautious about the availability of support for the project. The county runs shuttles for shoppers in Hudson and Greenport and a commuter shuttle to Albany.

“Money is very, very, very tight,” Mr. Flood said in an interview, and the county does not have buses to spare. In fact many of the buses in use now are in need of repair. Though the state reimburses some of the cost for running the current shuttle buses in the county, Mr. Flood said the county still subsidizes the program with up to $130,000 a year for the buses. “It’s expensive,” he said, “but it’s a service some people need.”

As for a bus between Ghent and Chatham, Mr. Flood says the county agency is “trying to work with the community to get the services they want.” But he said at the proposed runs could cost $3,000 per week, and that’s if the bus only runs five days a week.

Mr. Walters said he met with state Assemblyman Marcus Molinaro (R-103rd) on March 12 to look into ways to fund the bus program. He said Assemblyman Molinaro started a shuttle bus system similar to this when he was mayor of the village of Tivoli in Dutchess County.

Though Mr. Walters says budget is rough and the plan is still being worked out, he said supporters of the plan got a good response from a survey they conducted about two years ago, which included questions about the shuttle. He thinks it will be a good service for both older and younger residents of the county who need to get from place to place.

“It should help the businesses in the community; it should help the community overall,” said Mr. Boehme at the village meeting.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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