Seniors had cheered years ago at an Altamont Board of Trustees meeting upon hearing a new van would be bought, but the mayor recently was the one cheering after state funds for the purchase finally arrived at Village Hall.
“It languished for years in the bureaucracy, the budget problems,” Mayor James Gaughan said. “Because of (Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk), who released it from the bowels of the earth, we just got it literally weeks ago.”
Gaughan said seniors had lobbied to get a new bus, which cost the village around $40,000 and was bought about two years ago. The village tapped reserve funds and sold the old bus to the Town of Guilderland to purchase the new bus. Then, local officials waited longer than expected for $12,000 of state funds to come through.
Gaughan memorialized the bus, which was purchased about two years ago, alongside Tkaczyk and local senior advocates in the parking lot at Village Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
Gaughan said Gov. Andrew Cuomo cracked down on member items of state legislators, which is where the village funding had been lined up.“There are some aspects of member items that were really good because little places like us could be helped for really critical items,” Gaughan said. “Some remnant of it, I think, should be returned.”
Stan Dean, senior van driver, said the village stayed with a similar vehicle holding 12 passengers. If the vehicle held just a few more passengers, it would require a special license, which he said would be a hassle to obtain.
Dean said a lot of seniors in the village use the bus, which helps residents get to doctor appointments or other errands. The seniors also hold a weekly lunch on Tuesdays.
“I think it is needed for the folks around here,” said Lee Capano, one of the “kitchen angels” for the senior center. “It makes it so much more convenient for them.”
Dean said the older bus was starting to break down and had a lot of mileage on it. Gaughan said the former van’s roof was leaking onto passengers in the front.
“Like all equipment, it has to be safe,” Trustee William Aylward said. “We want an up-to-date bus that is safe.”
Gaughan said the village also had looked into buying a vehicle with a wheelchair lift, but the cost exceeded what the village was able to fund.
“It was financial and just practical to go with the same bus we had,” he said.
Aylward first approached Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, more than four years about getting funds to help offset buying a new van. During the process of trying to attain the funds, state senate district lines were redrawn, which pushed Breslin’s district out of Altamont. Village officials then worked with Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, after she was elected to the newly drawn district.
“I am so happy to see it here,” Aylward said. “It is so useful, and people really depend upon it.”