Town of Webb and CAA to fill funding gap for shuttle bus

The Town of Webb received word from Herkimer County that the local match required for a new shuttle bus system has been revised upward from a previous projection—doubled—and would require a renewed commitment from the town and Central Adirondack Association (CAA), according to Nick Rose, executive director of CAP-21.

CAP-21, with assistance from Town of Webb Publicity Director Mike Farmer, has been coordinating a grant application with Herkimer County. 

The initial proposal projected a cost of $79,900 for two years, half of which would be funding by a local match, according to Rose.

“We already had a commitment from the [Town of Webb] Board for $5,000 per year, and a commitment from the CAA for $5,000 per year, with the remaining funds to be raised from local business,” he said.

But once the proposal left town and estimates hit hard-line requirements, some key dollar figures changed.

“We got a proposal back from the county that was significantly higher: About a 40 percent increase in cost,” Rose said.

Fortunately the increase was able to be negotiated down a bit to a two-year cost of $91,500.

That raises the local match to $22,875 per year.

It would also raise the Town of Webb and CAA’s yearly commitment from $5,000 to $10,000 apiece.

Nick Rose said the CAA would be willing to double its commitment if the Town were to do the same.

Rose said he understands the decision is difficult for the Board, given the range of needs in the community.

“But this would allow us to start this shuttle transportation service and give us two years to identify ways to develop resources to keep it and sustain it,” he said.

The local match supports an application by Herkimer/Oneida County Transportation Services on behalf of the Town of Webb.

The purpose is to establish the Old Forge Circulator Shuttle project.

Specifically, the grant would fund a two-year pilot program that would provide a local transportation shuttle on the peak days of summer.

“It would be the start of a transportation (and) tourism service in town, and reduce some of the traffic congestion that we typically see, particularly on weekends,” Nick Rose said.

It would also supplement the shuttle service that’s being provided by the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, which is limited when it comes to town-wide travel.

Birnie Bus Service has agreed to provide two vehicles, that would not be full-size buses.

At least one would be in service during scheduled hours of operation. Both vehicles are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“(To reduce costs) this is being tacked onto the Youth Work Transportation Program of Water Safari, that is subsidized by the county,” Rose said.

That means drivers of the employee buses to Water Safari can be used for the Old Forge Circulator Shuttle.

And when the park is open till 7 p.m., shuttles will move people to shops and restaurants through the dinner hour.

“That’s where it sits at this point,” Rose said.

“The county has to make a decision on this by next week. The County Board of Supervisors needs to approve it, and they cannot approve it unless we have a clear identified source of local match,” he said.

That requires an upgraded commitment from the Town.

“It got more expensive than we hoped…but I still think it’s probably a do-able program. It would certainly be a great resource for the town,” Rose said.

The smaller-size buses would be able to fit through traffic and accommodate wheelchair users.

They would be in service 48 days from June 25 to September 6.

Each bus is estimated to carry 96 riders per day.

Potential ridership for both buses in one season is 9,216.

Birnie Bus, the town’s transportation contractor, will log actual rider numbers.

“These are 17-passenger vans…that will stop at all the motels along the way, so those people won’t have to drive their cars into town,” Nick Rose said.

Webb Publicity Director Mike Farmer said he is seeking additional support from businesses on the route that would receive more direct benefit.

“The beauty of contracting with Birnie is they already have the vehicles, the drivers, the insurance, the registration. Everything’s in place,” Farmer said.

Additionally, the county will provide the route maps, the brochures, and the shuttle-stop signs.

The town provides storage for the buses.

Councilwoman Mary Brophy-Moore said she likes the project, but is disappointed with the doubling of the town’s share.

Mike Farmer said he was also dismayed at the town’s share being doubled to $10,000.

“That’s not small potatoes, but it’s still a real bargain for getting the service that we can test for two years,” he said.

Councilman Mike Ross also balked at the unbudgeted expenditure.

“There’s certainly no doubt that this is extremely needed; it’s awesome.

But I’m very conscientious of this budget that we do, and it’s very important that we stick with it,” he said.

Councilwoman Kate Russell agreed the budget needs to be adhered to.

“It is hard when you work…to lay the budget out as best you can. Yes, there’s unforeseen circumstances, but unforeseen is a roof blowing off, a pole falling on the North Street field, a garbage truck having an engine blow. So, I guess the big question is where do we think the $5,000 can come from, that’s feasible,” she said.

Councilman J.B. Herron said he was of like mind on this.

“Unfortunately we didn’t know about this at budget time, which makes it tough. [The amount] isn’t a fortune to come up with, but it certainly would have been nice to know about it [ahead of time],” he said.

Mike Farmer explained that the grant opportunity became available in January, and the town was not aware of it till February.

“Ten thousand dollars isn’t a lot in the overall budget, but on the other hand it is a lot,” said Councilwoman Russell.

“We want to think really carefully about the circumstances, and I know we are… This isn’t something we want to set as a precedent,” she said.

“I completely agree,” said Supervisor Ted Riehle. “I think the real positive here is the business community being behind [the project].

The CAA is going to step up and provide their match. That makes a big difference.”

Riehle said he has looked at the town’s current year’s budget and has found some allocations that have already gone unexpended.

“I think we can come up with the funds safely and still stay within budget,” he said.

Mike Farmer said he could adjust some of his Publicity Department’s priorities in the current year, to help fund year-one of the project.

“I certainly don’t want to do without that money next year, but [the shuttle project] is important enough to me and I believe we have to do it. If [the board] is in agreement, I’m going to do everything I can to get us to that total, to make up that money,” he said.

Following this discussion at its Tuesday, May 12th meeting, the Town of Webb Board unanimously adopted a resolution committing the town to a $10,000 match to go with the $10,000 match from the CAA.

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