Fate of Poughkeepsie buses remains uncertain; motion to keep them fails

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POUGHKEEPSIE – A marathon five-hour Poughkeepsie Common Council session, which included three hours of public comment, failed to resolve the future of the city buses. 
A motion for the city to retain the buses received four affirmative votes, but that was one short of the five needed.  Two council members abstained.  Matthew McNamara was absent. 
Christopher Petsas presented the detailed resolution, arguing, among other points, that he believes the city has the money.
“And whereas the funding for the City of Poughkeepsie bus system for the entire 2017 fiscal year can be achieved and restored without any negative impact to the budget or the general fund balance by recognizing a full year of expenditures would offset by the corresponding full year of federal and state transportation aid of operation maintenance funds,” Petsas said. 
He had the support of Lorraine Johnson, Randall Johnson and council Chairwoman Natasha Cherry, all Democrats.  The Lone Republican, Lee Klein, voted ‘no’ after a lengthy dissertation contending the city “cannot spend money it does not have.”
The abstentions came from Ann Perry and Mike Young, who raised several issues, including whether it was even proper for the council to vote on a resolution during the same meeting in which the resolution was first presented. 
Young took direct aim at Petsas, who was last year’s council chairman.
“The chairman at the time, who happens to be the chairman from the First ward, said that it is not normal and wrong and said that things should go before the council in the normal way which, for this council, has been to introduce it as a communication and then vote on it at the next meeting,” Young argued. 
Young also questioned whether the legal implications of the resolution had been properly researched. 
The three hours of public comment, for the most part, was an extended rehash of the appeals that have been voiced for months by people not wanting to lose the city buses, or see them merge with the county system.
Speakers included County Transit Administrator Cynthia Ruiz and Public Works Commissioner Robert Balkind, both assuring that they are ready to work with the city for a smooth transition if, as proposed by Mayor Robert Rolison, the county assumes the city buses by mid-year.   Balkind said if that is going to happen, they need to start planning now.