SALEM — The town is threatening to withdraw from the Cooperative Alliance for Regional Transportation, a move that could cripple the community bus service.
Selectmen told executive director Annette Stoller on Monday that the service isn't worth the $47,000 annual cost. Too many residents are told they can't get rides when they need them, Selectmen's Chairman Patrick Hargreaves said.
"My problem is for $47,000, we think the town of Salem should be your No. 1 priority," Hargreaves said. "This board needs to take care of our residents. We don't feel like we are being loved."
Selectmen then voted unanimously to instruct Town Manager Keith Hickey to consider other transportation alternatives and report back to them.
Earlier in the meeting, Selectman Everett McBride said he didn't think the town was benefiting enough from its contract with CART.
He suggested seeking a bid from the Greater Salem Caregivers.
"Let's see if we can do it more efficiently for less money," McBride said. "I'm not personally satisfied with the service at this point."
Selectman James Keller also questioned the service's overall value to the town. He cited statistics that showed 10 people accounted for 47 percent of the 723 rides provided to Salem residents between January and March.
Stoller said the town shouldn't base its decisions on figures from that time period because ridership is usually low in the winter. Ridership doesn't pick up until spring, she said.
"When the snow flies, people aren't getting out there riding," Stoller said.
CART serves five Southern New Hampshire communities. The other towns are Derry, Londonderry, Hampstead and Chester.
Salem residents are the most frequent users of the service, taking rides to go shopping or to medical appointments. CART relies on federal, state and community money, but several towns have stopping using the service in recent years, including Windham.