Poughkeepsie council bus transfer vote falls one short

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An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the transfer was approved. We regret the error.
POUGHKEEPSIE – For the first half of this year, dozens of citizens pleaded, at every common council meeting, for the city to keep its buses.  Mayor Robert Rolison said the buses were unaffordable and included ending the bus service as of June 30, in his 2017 budget.
Last night, several citizens said the deed was done and the buses should be transferred to the county, to get them back on the road.
That didn’t happen. The four-three vote was one short of the five needed to approve the transfer.
An impassioned Finance Commissioner Marc Nelson said in his view, failure to do so could be costly in many ways.  Failure to turn the buses over could obligate the city to repay the federal government some $1.6 million granted to the city to purchase the six buses.
He also said waiting until next year could, by itself, add over seven percent to the property tax levy next year, outside of all other budgetary obligations. 
“The federal government can and most likely will withhold vital funding to other city programs, including CDBG, Section 8, as well as the city’s CHIPs, highway improvement money, police grants and our SAFER grant affecting our fire personnel,” Nelson warned.
He said this is what the Federal Transit Administration and the state Financial Restructuring Board are looking for.
Nelson also warned this could undo some recent progress, including an improved bond rating for the first time in a decade. 
Some council members, including, Randal Johnson, were not convinced.
“There have been hundreds and hundreds of testimonies and gatherings of support for our city buses and so when you have a mayor who tries to move his personal agenda, without council approval, then you get into situations like this,” Johnson said.
Christopher Petsas called the whole episode with the city buses a “flawed process”, noting it would have cost only $250,000 to run the buses until the end of this year. 
“The financially sane decision is to vote ‘yes’,” said another Democrat, Mike Young. 
 “We need to support this resolution because it will let us put these buses back into service for our residents,” Young said.  “We can’t afford to buy them just to put them in a garage.”
Young supported the transfer to the county, along with Matthew McNamara, Lee Klein and council Chair Natasha Cherry.   Johnson, Petsas and Ann Perry voted ‘no’. Lorraine Johnson was absent.