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Transit deal now unlikely

Gloversville may not accept compromise

November 5, 2010
By AMANDA WHISTLE, The Leader-Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - A notice on Gloversville Transit Service's website has warned for months that the GTS bus service to Johnstown could discontinue at 6 p.m. Nov. 12. Gloversville officials now say the end is likely.

Last month, Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland announced that $40,000 for bus service was built into Johnstown's proposed 2011 budget, though she wasn't sure whether the city would be able to support GTS service beyond that.

But with no guarantee of continued payment for service from Johnstown and uncertainty surrounding whether another driver would need to be hired in light of two retirements, several Gloversville Common Council members expressed concern this week over whether they would accept $40,000 when the city initially asked for $50,000.

Mayor Dayton King said Thursday he anticipated the council would decide against accepting the $40,000 price, but he couldn't say for sure.

"I expect a decision Tuesday [at the council's work session] in open session at a council meeting and I anticipate-due to not being able to get together on this run - it will end on Nov. 12," King said.

At a Transit Department budget meeting last week, the Common Council saw numbers from city Finance Commissioner Bruce Van Genderen and Interim GTS Director Bob Abel that indicated that the modified run would cost city taxpayers about $66,600 to operate, but without the route, GTS would lose out on an estimated combined $80,000 in state and federal funds.

"There still would be a cost to the taxpayers of the city of Gloversville," 2nd Ward Councilman John Castiglione said Thursday. "That wouldn't cover the entire cost," which would be passed on to the residents - all for a service that wouldn't be guaranteed for beyond next year, he said.

Abel said he has been working for the past three weeks to try to negotiate a price and find a way to save the route. He modified the route, cutting runs from the morning and afternoon so one full-time driver could cover the routes, rather than the extra part-time driver needed for the 13 current routes.

"It just isn't going to work," Abel said. "It would just be prolonging the inevitable."

Slingerland said this morning she would be surprised if Gloversville doesn't accept the $40,000, considering Abel negotiated that figure with city Treasurer Michael Gifford.

"The transit director came in just before I set my budget and said that for the remaining six weeks of the year, there would be no additional cost, and that for 2011, $40,000 would work," Slingerland said. "That's where that number came from." The $40,000 figure was included in the city's proposed budget.

Councilman-At-Large James Robinson said it doesn't look like his mind has changed since the council first voted to end the route if Johnstown couldn't come up with $6,000 in addition to the $38,100 paid for 2010 up to Nov. 12.

"I'll probably vote with the rest of my colleagues on ending the Johnstown route," he said, referring to that vote.

First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth declined to say whether the Common Council has reached an informal consensus.

"People will make their own decision when it comes up at the public meeting," she said. "I don't want to speak for other people."

She said she respects Johnstown's stance that the city cannot afford the service, but said Gloversville can't afford to pay for it, either.

"Their compromise was that they offered us $40,000 in 2011," she said. "I don't see that as a compromise. We told them [how much money] we needed to continue the service and they're [apparently] not able to meet that."

Two full-time drivers will be retired from driving by Nov. 12, leaving GTS with five working full-time drivers as well as some part-time drivers.

Castiglione has been vocal about needing to know whether the city would have to hire another driver to sustain even the modified route. He said that issue is still up in the air.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio said she "has an open mind" about the issue and is undecided.

"I don't know because when it comes down to it, I'm not completely convinced we would lose money or gain money by it," Anadio said. "We are taking a really close look at this, because it is important to our citizens."

The GTS budget was scheduled to be discussed Wednesday, along with the Finance Department's budget. After the meeting was opened, the Common Council went into about a 40-minute executive session to discuss the employment history of a particular person in the Transit Department and then did not discuss anything concerning Transit in open session.

Johnstown resident John Sweet has been part of a team to raise the $6,000 to keep the Johnstown bus running until the end of the year. Sweet said he was under the impression at first that if the group was successful, the route would be saved, but learned later that with the retirement of two drivers, it wouldn't be possible to keep the route at full capacity.

The group is still raffling prizes donated by several Johnstown businesses. The proceeds will be donated to Wheels for Work. So far, the group has raised $225. Drawings for the prizes will be held Dec. 4 and 6.

"The riders and businesses alike were screwed by both cities," Sweet said. "I can only hope that is remembered very strongly by everyone affected next November because I certainly won't forget it."

Amanda Whistle covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at gloversville@leaderherald.com

 
 

 

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