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Federal grant funds may improve St. Lawrence County NYSARC transportation

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CANTON — Recommendations made by the state Department of Transportation for $11.3 million in federal funding could result in the St. Lawrence County chapter of NYSARC receiving $207,837 to ramp up its fleet.

The county’s NYSARC chapter is the only north country agency named among the 111 recommendations made by DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald to the Federal Transit Administration for the grant funding.

Chapter Executive Director Daphne A. Pickert said she was sure the agency would receive the funding, something from which it has benefited in previous years.

“It’s a great program. We apply every year because of the size of our transportation fleet,” Ms. Pickert said. “Our mission is to serve people with developmental disabilities, so we are a natural fit as a recipient for this type of a grant.”

In addition to being a “perfect fit” for the grant, Ms. Pickert said, the agency is in need of the funding, with its fleet of buses traveling more than two million miles a year throughout St. Lawrence County.

The funding would help replace six of the buses in the agency’s fleet.

The state DOT administers the funding program on behalf of the FTA. That funding covers 80 percent of the purchase cost of accessible vehicles; grant recipients are required to contribute the remaining 20 percent, leaving NYSARC to cover $51,959 of the purchase cost.

Putting in the 20 percent is well worth it, Ms. Pickert said, to keep the agency’s fleet current.

“We are definitely in need of this kind of funding,” she said. “Otherwise, it would be very, very challenging for us to finance the kind of buses that we need.”

In anticipation of grant project approval from FTA, DOT is notifying applicants about the projects selected for funding.

“This program provides mobility to the elderly and individuals with disabilities who cannot access traditional public transportation,” Ms. McDonald said in a release. “The program also boosts the state’s economy, since several of the vehicles approved for purchase are manufactured and sold in upstate New York, providing well-paying jobs in communities including Penn Yan and Canandaigua.”

The program is open to private, nonprofit organizations incorporated in New York and public bodies that certify that no nonprofit corporations readily are available to provide services to elderly individuals and people with disabilities and none is approved to coordinate these services.

Grant proposal evaluations are performed by the state’s Interagency Review Committee, consisting of representatives in statewide agencies.

Vehicle deliveries will begin this year following the FTA’s approval of the grant recommendations.

Funding recipients are required to submit semiannual reports that demonstrate the vehicles are being used for their intended purpose. DOT officials also conduct site visits to ensure appropriate vehicle use.

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