ESSEX - Access to health care was the overwhelming concern expressed by area residents at a public meeting to discuss keeping the Essex-Charlotte Ferry crossing open through the winter.
More than 100 supporters gathered at the Essex Firehouse Nov. 10 to express their views. Co-organized by Essex resident Andy Buchanan and facilitated by Assemblywoman Teresa R. Sayward, R-Willsboro, the meeting was joined by Essex Supervisor Sharon Boisen, Vermont State Representative Diane Lanpher as well as Willsboro Supervisor Edward Hatch.
Lake Champlain Transportation president Trey Pecor and operations manager Heather Stewart were invited, but did not participate.
Sayward explained LCT is a private business and said they can conduct business as they see fit. The purpose of the public meeting was to listen, gather information and make suggestions that may not be apparent to LCT. One goal was to figure out who "must" use the ferry versus those that "want" to use the service. The testimony would be compiled and presented to the company in hopes of persuading them to stay open year-round, Sayward said.
Stewart previously stated the ferry would continue to run as long as ice conditions permit. In a recent interview, she said only 150 cars per day used the Essex-Charlotte run.
Numerous people talked of employment issues if the ferry closed. Residents of Vermont and New York commute daily to the other state for their jobs.
Robin Gucker, Keeseville, said closing the ferry changes her children's daily commute to the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Charlotte from 17 miles to 70 and adds two hours each way to their travels. Afterschool activities and sports are not possible because of the transportation time, she said. Gucker said the school year commuting costs on the ferry were about $3,000 annually, a fee she was glad to pay for the service.