Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. That’s Supervisor Gary Gerth’s approach to a new 20-passenger bus to replace a 17-year-old van that has been used to transport senior residents to appointments and events.
The Senior Citizens Foundation of Shelter Island is giving the bus to the town for use by seniors, but looking to the Town Board to include money in its 2020 budget to cover insurance, permits, driver salary and maintenance.
Therein lies the rub.
Former councilwoman Chris Lewis came before the Town Board earlier this month and made a strong case for the new bus to transport seniors to appointments and activities on- and off-Island.
When the subject arose during budget talks this week, Town Board members didn’t say no to the request, but they didn’t pass it through, either.
Councilman Albert Dickson, liaison to the Senior Center, argued for the importance of the new bus since the Island has a large and growing senior population.
Tuesday morning, Mr. Gerth said, “I never turn down a gift.” But he will need at least one more member to join him and Mr. Dickson to push through the allocation.
With the ability to sell back the old bus to Suffolk County and the possibility of getting volunteer drivers, he said he thinks the Town Board will approve necessary expenditures.
“I don’t think the board is reluctant or reticent, but they just want to be careful,” Mr. Gerth said, noting he is facing a re-election battle and five others are vying for two seats held by Councilmen Jim Colligan and Paul Shepherd. Both men are seeking re-election, with Democrat Mike Bebon and Republicans Marcus Kaasik and Julia Weisenberg seeking to unseat either or both of them.
While the budget is likely to take shape before the Nov. 5 election, the need for a public hearing and final decisions on spending by the Town Board means it may not be adopted until after the election.