ELIZABETHTOWN — Twenty-two Essex County residents have been left scrambling to adjust their transportation schedules after the Ticonderoga-based health consortium Inter-Lakes Health (ILH) cancelled the bus service that ferried elderly passengers from the southern part of the county to medical appointments across the region, including Middlebury and Burlington.
Essex County officials remain in the dark two weeks after the decision was made on July 28.
“It’s been hard to get information,” Essex County Transportation Coordinator Nancy Dougal told the Board of Supervisors on Monday, Aug. 11.
Dougal said one resident has already called the county requesting transport.
“I have 22 people that we need to decide how to move,” said Dougal. “Many are in wheelchairs.”
ILH spokesperson Jane Hooper said residents will still be served. Patrons of the former service were notified in a letter sent on Aug. 1 that the Essex County Bus and Ticonderoga Senior Bus would be available as replacements.
Dougal didn’t receive the letter. “The patients started calling and that’s how we got involved,” said Dougal.
The program, a joint effort between ILH and Hudson Headwaters, ran out of gas due to the prohibitive costs of repairing the bus, which was five-years-old and had 120,000 miles.
Hudson Headwaters got state grant funding for the vehicle, explained Hooper. While they owned it, ILH agreed to provide a driver, gas and insurance and ensure its operation.
ILH said they weren’t in a position to make repairs.
Hudson Headwaters rep Howard Nelson said on Monday they opted to discontinue the program entirely because they didn’t have grant funding to purchase a replacement.
This wasn’t the first bus in the program — repairs to a prior vehicle were made in the past — but nonetheless marks the elimination of the service.
Hooper said the termination was unrelated to the storms swirling around ILH this year, including mass layoffs and personnel changes that have called the facility’s long-term sustainability into doubt.