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SEAT Chairman Responds To Fund Cuts

Chairman Says SEAT Is About Service, Not Ridership

On Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen refused to , and said the request was a “bully” move, and then on Wednesday the Board of Finance voted to cut

Thursday, SEAT Board Chairman Paul Altman talked with Patch on both issues. One of the main reasons the money was cut was because SEAT does not provide ridership numbers to the town officials, but that number is irrelevant, Altman said.

“The number of people on the bus has nothing to do with the charge each town gets,” Altman said. “The basis of what each town pays is the service given to those towns.”

SEAT is a regional bus service that provides public transportation to residents in nine towns. Most of the destinations in Waterford are retail outlets, like the .

Ridership

Altman said SEAT provides a service to taxpayers by running buses on a regular basis through town to key areas. Whether 50 people or five people are on the bus makes no difference, the point is it provides a service to the people of Waterford, he said.

“(Waterford) paid to have bus service for the town, period,” Altman said. “You can’t put a gun to somebody’s head to say they are going to ride the bus."

Altman said SEAT offers a level of service to the town. Waterford has two choices, to pay for that level of service or to not participate in SEAT.

The Cut

Last year, from the amount SEAT asked for. Altman said that cut isn’t really fair, that the town should either adopt the service or drop out.

The problem is you can just remove a few routes because most of the routes run through other towns, Altman said. It is much more complicated than just deducting $5,000 of services from the town, when the amount Waterford pays hardly covers the amount of service SEAT gives to Waterford in the first place, he said.

SEAT’s budget is more than $5 million, most of which is paid through state funds, he said. The nine towns in SEAT pay a small percentage, and Waterford is supposed to pay around $40,000, he said.

“If Waterford says they don’t want to pay $5,000 and to cut service, we’d get less money from the state,” Altman said. “And that affects all the other towns in the district. It isn’t that simple.”

Non-Competition

At a Board of Finance meeting Wednesday night, First Selectman Dan Steward said he was looking for other ways to provide Waterford’s public transportation. Altman said Thursday that state statute forbids the town from replacing SEAT with another form of public transportation unless SEAT agrees to it.

“There is a non-competition clause in the statute,” he said.

That means Waterford can either have SEAT deliver public transportation or have no public transportation, Altman said. SEAT is a good service for the people of Waterford, and it is worth paying the $5,812 to have the service.

“I think Waterford should pay the bill,” he said. “There are people in the town who depend on the service.”

Steward also told the Board of Finance he tried to meet with Altman, and Altman refused. Altman said he had never once had a discussion with Steward, was never asked to meet with him and said he would meet with Steward at any time.

Sarah orr March 09, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Altman couldn't go to the BOF hearing to explain this to them why?
Cheryl L March 09, 2012 at 02:22 PM
It is true SEAT did not send a representative to the Board of Finance meeting on Wednesday. However, SEAT did send a respresentative to an earlier meeting of social service grants review committee that received the SEAT request for funding. That review committee included members of the Bd or Selectmen, the Board of Finance and the RTM and that committee included the SEAT request for funding in its recommendations to the various boards for approval. Members of the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance have also been provided a backup package of information provided to the town by SEAT which includes funding amounts received from various sources, specifics of costs and expenses of the SEAT operation including wages and other expenses, routes and service areas covered by SEAT and an audited financial statement. The information missing from the package and the apparent bone of contention was the specific number of Waterford residents utilizing SEAT's service.
Matt Bartkowski March 09, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I wish Formica would do the same in East Lyme. It's ridiculous to pay for a service that very few people are utilizing (at least if SEAT refuses to disclose ridership numbers, this seems to be the logical conclusion). I'm sure Waterford and East Lyme could work together to find a much more cost effective solution to accomodate those in need of public transportation in our towns.
Disgusted Parent March 09, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Why wouldn't SEAT show up to the last meeting? Business must be pretty good. It's all about communication and respect.Good for the BOF!
Ron March 09, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Unfortunately this is the crux of the problem, SEAT obviously believes that they can drive around without justifying the routes and demand financial support based on "service". What they do not seem to understand is that there is such a thing as "return on investment". Anyone who has spent one day in private business understands that investment must make some sense. SEAT obviously believes that they can just ask all levels of govt. to support their excesses (receipts at 1/7th of their budget). If they did not have their hands in the taxpayers pocket, they would re-evaluate their understanding of "service".
David Irons March 09, 2012 at 06:49 PM
When I continue to see buses going across the bridge to Groton with just five or six passengers, it tells me that SEAT is not running a very efficient operation. If a route only has that level of ridership, it should be serviced by a smaller, perhaps 15 passenger, van or other more economical vehicle than these behemoths that they run. What other practices of SEAT are wasting taxpayer money? Only when SEAT can get its act together and operate more efficiently and as a business should Waterford, East Lyme or for that matter any town provide the full funding demanded by them. Thank you, Dan Steward, for watching out for my tax dollars.
An Employee March 09, 2012 at 10:22 PM
David they pay over $ 150,000 per year to have First Transit "manage" SEAT. How's that for starters?
Paul March 09, 2012 at 10:57 PM
First, why is Mr Altman hiding behind state statutes. The BOF, BOS, & RTM deserve answers to their questions regardless of the back up material in ones packet. The BOF on many an occasion has tabled appropriations until the final budget hearing due to no one from an agency showing up to their budget night to answer questions. Why should SEAT be treated any differently? Second, I would like to know why SEAT is run inefficiently? I would like our state reps & Governor to look into this as well? If our Taxes are going to be raised we have the basic right to know or how & why it is happening. Finally, for our local elected officials, our First Selectperson originally appealed the $5000 cut to the RTM last year & wanted it restored. Why did he flip flop on the issue? If SEAT withdraws from the town of Waterford what is the economic loss in profits to the local businesses? It would be very short sighted if the economic loss to the town was greater than $5800.
Melissa March 10, 2012 at 12:49 AM
The chairman of the board is an unprofessional, biased, hypocrite.

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