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Salem town manager talks of funding cut to CART program

SALEM — For the third year in a row, Town Manager Keith Hickey has recommended cutting the town’s contribution to the Cooperative Alliance for Transportation (CART) public transportation service.

In the past two years, Salem residents have supported restoring the funding for the program, which provides curb-to-curb rides for a number of residents who are without their own transportation.

Over the past several months, selectmen have been taking a closer look at the services provided by CART, the financial value of the program, and how the relationship between the nonprofit and the town can become more efficient.

CART services are provided through a combination of town funding through the donor towns that include Chester, Derry, Hampstead, and Londonderry, as well as Salem.

Salem’s current share of the nonprofit’s approximately $600,000 budget is $47,000.

CART also receives state and federal transit funds to help defray costs.

Earlier this month, selectmen met with CART representatives to get a better idea of how many rides are provided for Salem residents. Last year, CART provided more than 15,000 rides overall to its service area, with Salem being one of the towns to receive the greatest degree of service.

During that meeting earlier this month, Selectman Stephen Campbell volunteered to be one of the Salem representatives to the CART board. At Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting, Campbell reported back that he believes CART is working to make its program more efficient.

“We got their audit and financials and looked through them and there were no problems,” said Campbell. “I think the question everyone has to ask themselves first is, do we believe we need to provide this service, whether it is CART or someone else.”

Campbell asked if it should be one of the town’s higher service priorities, given the lack of public transportation in Salem.

“I don’t believe that there is any other economic way you could provide that service,” he said.

CART is looking for more input from Salem and the towns it services and is looking to hire a full-time executive director rather than a part-time director, Campbell said.

“We couldn’t hire a person, never mind give him a van, gas, and insurance, for $47,000,” said Campbell. “So that really is the fundamental question, if you think we need to provide that service, I don’t think we have a better alternative.”

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