NEW CITY Rockland Legislators are expected to vote Wednesday night on whether to fund the TOR and Tappan ZEExpress bus services for another three months in order to avert a potential shut down that could have impacted thousands of riders.
Lawmakers will decide to approve an estimated $3.7 million extension, following a week’s worth of negotiations between leaders of the Legislature and County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and his staff.
The decision has come down to the wire; the three funding resolutions were added to the agenda on Wednesday afternoon.
Some lawmakers threatened to withhold funding as a way to force Vanderhoef to improve his working relationship with the Legislature and finally settle who will run the two bus services for the next five years.
Vanderhoef spokesman Ron Levine said both sides met today and had a “productive discussion.” Legislators Harriet Cornell, Ilan Schoenberger and Michael Grant met with the county executive.
“All present recognized the importance of maintaining uninterrupted bus service,” Levine said. “We are optimistic, therefore, that this view will be reiterated at the legislative meeting tonight.”
The extensions were needed because the county is still in court over its bus contract award. The Legislature gave the $70 million contract to Valley Cottage-based Brega Transport Corp. but Vanderhoef later voided the deal.
Funding for the two subsidiaries of Coach USA ran out last Sunday. Rockland Transit and Hudson Transit have operated this buses this week without contracts, but with the understanding that the funding dispute would be resolved quickly.
George Grieve, general manager of Coach USA’s northern district, said it costs $40,000 a day to run the buses and that many lower-income and disabled residents rely on the services.
“We’re not going to run this for a month or two or three without a contract, I can tell you that,” Grieve told The Journal News this afternoon. “I’ve already assured the county that we’re not going to just stop running on very short notice.”
The contract would cover the period from April 1 to June 30. Originally, county transportation officials wanted the option for a three-month extension.
The funding extension was put in doubt after a handful of county lawmakers and members of the Planning and Public Works Committee pulled three resolutions two weeks ago. This is the fifth extension since the bus contracts expired Dec. 31, 2010.
Federal, state and local transit funds, along with farebox revenue, pay for the bus services but the county Legislature must approve the contract.
The Legislature will meet at 7 p.m. in the Legislative Chambers of the Allison-Parris building, 11 New Hempstead Road, New City.
File photo by Tania Savayan/The Journal News