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September 26, 2013

Money from Salem helps save CART

Future for bus service still uncertain

SALEM — A decision by selectmen to restore $48,000 for the Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation has prevented the public bus service from possibly shutting down.

Selectmen voted unanimously last week to include the money in the town’s proposed $40.2 million budget for 2014 after Town Manager Keith Hickey cut the funding, according to Selectmen’s Chairman Everett McBride Jr.

The decision was welcomed by Derry planning director George Sioras, chairman of CART’s board of directors.

“We’re very pleased and happy that Salem decided to put that money back in,” Sioras said yesterday.

Without the money, the five-day bus service would have been in jeopardy, Sioras said.

“The service probably wouldn’t continue,” Sioras said. “It probably would have eliminated CART altogether.”

Salem residents are the most frequent users of the five-town service, which relies on federal, state and community funding. The loss of $48,000 would take a major toll on CART’s $639,000 annual budget, Sioras said.

“It’s a big chunk of our overall operations money,” he said. “The service would have to be either phased out or drastically reduced to one day a week.”

CART’s budget has taken a big hit in recent years as one community after another has decided not to fund the service. The latest was Windham, which eliminated its $13,000 annual budget for CART earlier this year.

CART executive director Annette Stoller recently said she still receives calls from Windham residents, wondering why they can no longer get a ride. Stoller could not be reached yesterday for comment.

But even with the $48,000, CART’s future remains bleak.

The board of directors will vote Oct. 15 whether to reduce its Derry service from five days to three days a week, Sioras said. If the cut is approved, it would take effect Nov. 1, he said.

A public hearing on the reduction was set for 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Derry Municipal Center, but no one showed up, Sioras said.

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