Since shortly after Butterfield Common opened, some residents have complained that the promise of MOOver access made in the Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust’s (now known as the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust) initial advertisements eight years ago has never been fulfilled.
“We’ve been trying to get the MOOver to come down Handle Road and stop at Butterfield Common for seven years,” said Nancy Andersen, speaking for the group. “The reason a lot of people came to Butterfield Common is because they were told there would be bus service available to them.”
Residents have complained about the situation in letters to the editor and directly to the Deerfield Valley Transit Association, operators of the MOOver bus system. In a similar meeting with the DVTA, board members explained that their funding system doesn’t allow them to add or change routes and add stops without additional funding.
“The MOOver has said they can’t accommodate us because the Windham and Windsor Housing Trust needs to contribute money,” acknowledged Andersen. “So we’re asking for your help in finding grants for us. We’re not asking for (town) money. You’ve got a little more oomph than we do to get things done and find money for grants”
Andersen said the DVTA offered special services to residents of Butterfield Common, including transportation to doctor’s appointments, senior meals, and shopping excursions to Bennington, but she said residents wanted regular bus service. “We don’t need people patting us on the head saying we’ll do that for you and wait for us to come. We’d like to get on the bus to do our shopping or go to lunch, but the MOOver says no, we’ve got to do what they want us to do.”
Marlene Wein said the issue concerned more than transportation, it was also about safety. Another person noted that a Butterfield Common resident had been hit by a plow truck while attempting to walk to the nearest MOOver stop, located at Equipe Sport. “There’s no sidewalk for people to walk if they wanted to walk to the bus stop,” said Wein. “For the people who are most vulnerable, we don’t have safe access. It’s a matter of respect. We want our people to be independent, and that’s what the state of Vermont wants, too.”
William “Buzzy” Buswell said the people at Butterfield Common have a legitimate concern about transportation, but he said the discussion didn’t belong at a selectboard meeting. “This problem has been around since day one (of Butterfield Common). It wasn’t caused by the town of Dover, and it wasn’t caused by the MOOver. It was caused by the BACLT (WWHT), which promised there would be a bus stop.”
Selectboard chair Randy Terk agreed. “If there are problems with transportation, we can’t address that, we’re not in the transportation business. I don’t think there’s anything we can do as a town to resolve these issues. If there were promises in a agreement with (WWHT), you need to address that with them.”
Wein countered that safety was within the board’s purview. “Aren’t the roads for all residents?” she asked. “Aren’t you in charge of taking care of the roads? The most vulnerable people deserve to be treated with respect and care. You don’t seem to realize it is your responsibility as a town to make sure (the roads) are safe for them.”
Terk asked if Wein believed the town should put sidewalks on every road, or just in front of Butterfield Common.
“Yes, said Wein, “anywhere you can get to safely. These people can’t get in a car and drive to get where they need to go.”
Deb Zach, a representative of WWHT said her organization supports the residents’ request to have a MOOver stop at Butterfield Common, but she said the housing trust’s support didn’t include any agreement to pay for the stop. She said the trust has discussed the situation with the DVTA. “We tried, but we certainly can’t afford to pay for a MOOver stop, and the MOOver can’t afford to stop at Butterfield Common. But I support their wish to come before the town of Dover to help them in some way.”
Jan Terk, of the DVTA, reminded Wein and others that transportation was available for the residents by appointment. “If you’re talking about the most vulnerable population, that’s the best form of transportation. It’s door-to-door service and the driver will get out and help.”
Terk said the DVTA was open to discussing a stop at Butterfield Common, but she said a route to, and stop at, Butterfield Common requires funding. “Through this whole process, we haven’t been approached recently about providing service or what the cost might be,” she said. “We’re open to this. Give us something in writing that tells us what you’d like to do, and we can give you a cost estimate. Then you can go out and see what funds you can get.”
Terk also offered a position statement by the DVTA that had been written in response to similar concerns raised in 2010. According to the document, the DVTA informed the (then) BACLT that a MOOver stop would have to be funded privately. But initial BACLT advertisements for units at the Butterfield Common indicated that the DVTA would provide bus service to the complex. “We requested that the BACLT remove such advertising. The BACLT immediately complied with our request.”
The document also noted that, in a 2009 survey of 34 Butterfield Common residents, only 17 responses were returned, only four of which indicated that they didn’t own a vehicle. “The size of this demand is far too small in terms of population served, potential ridership, and cost per ride to trigger a grant request for a new service.”
One resident asked Terk why the MOOver can’t request state and federal funding for a route and stop at Butterfield Common. “That’s a tough question,” said Terk. “The funding from the state and federal governments has been level-funded for many years, with small increases to maintain the routes we have.”
In other matters, selectboard members gave Dover economic development chief Ken Black the go-ahead to begin a scoping study for the Valley Trail section running from Mountain Park Plaza to Stugger Road; to apply for a state bicycle and pedestrian grant to help fund a portion of the Valley Trail “A” section; and to hire an agent to book bands for a concert series to be held at the bandstand in Dover Park.
Black recommended hiring local musician Kevin Parry to book the acts. “I’d like to hire him and start getting the bands lined up,” he said. Black said four dates were planned, and two more may be added depending on public interest.
“We’ll be picking dates that aren’t in conflict with existing events, and we’ve talked with Phil Gilpin Jr. about events he’s planning and some events that may dovetail with his.”