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 .
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.
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.”
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.