Cheshire’s Senior Services Department will be adding a new handicapped accessible bus to their fleet this year, thanks to the Connecticut Department of Transportation Capital Assistance Grant. Cheshire will receive $80,000 to purchase a new vehicle.
The program is part of the larger state DOT capital plan to assist communities with upgrades across all modes of transportation. The $80,000 will cover the entire cost of the new wheelchair-accessible vehicle, and allow for the Town to retire an older bus and possibly resell it for auction or use as needed.
“We currently own it, so there is no returning of the vehicle or anything. It’s ours to do with what we want,” Town Manager Sean Kimball told the Council during a Dec. 14 meeting. “There has been some discussion in the past where the Police Department was looking to possibly use one of the vans at one point, but I don’t think that’s (going to happen). I am not 100% sure what’s going to happen to the oldest (vehicle), but the three newest ones will be in service for the town.”
Currently, the Town has three buses that are used by the Senior Center, all of which, including the new one, are wheelchair-accessible The Center utilizes the buses for a variety of tasks such as driving residents to medical appointments, transporting program participants to and from the Senior Center, and for the many events the Center holds annually.
“We will bring residents to appointments from everything to basic medical appointments to daily grocery trips,” Michelle Piccerillo, director of Human Services, told The Herald. “Anything that might consist of regular daily life, we aim to help wherever necessary.”
The buses have also been helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The buses are also doing deliveries for the Food Pantry to residents and (the buses will pick up) donated food as well,” Piccerillo added.
While the buses are in high demand, Piccerillo mentioned that Cheshire might not see the new addition until late spring due to the labor shortages exacerbated by the pandemic.
“A lot of DOT workers are probably working from home right now, so we most likely won’t see the new bus until the end of the spring,” she said. “We still have to choose the vehicle and get out our specific requirements for what we want.”