Sandown Turns Down Donated Van for Local Transit Program

SANDOWN – A conflicted board of selectmen has decided against letting the Sandown Senior Affairs/Transportation Program accept a donated minivan that the group said would aid in their work. The board decided against the donation at their July 29 meeting, but had been pondering the request for a couple of weeks since it was first presented earlier in the month.

The seniors committee was recently offered a 2002 Dodge Caravan with 153,000 miles on it. Kathleen Richardson explained to the board that she had secured a mechanic who was willing to work on the vehicle at no labor charge and the committee was ready to front all money for parts. The only thing the committee asked of the town was to fund insurance through an existing town plan.

While selectmen Hans Nicolaisen and Jim Devine were amenable to the donation, the rest of the board had misgivings. Chair Tom Tombarello said the acquisition of a van came too early in the program’s life. He repeated that he supported the group and its work and expressed remorse that he couldn’t support the van. He argued that with just a few months and less than 60 one-way trips under the program’s belt, getting a van was putting the cart before the horse.

Tombarello pointed to how the senior transportation program in Atkinson, on which Sandown’s program was largely based, didn’t get a vehicle until several years into operations. Selectman Brenda Copp spoke Monday about how a wiser plan for the program would be to work with Community Caregivers of Greater Derry. “If those two groups could work together, it would be the best thing to have happened to the seniors and disabled in Sandown,” said Copp, adding that she supported helping Sandown seniors.

Copp urged the committee to seek out cooperation with Caregivers, an established group with 25 years of experience. She has asked the committee to stick to its statements when starting the transportation program that it would not cost the town any money. She added that it made more sense to expand services through cooperation than to start on the road of town financial support.

Selectman Terry Treanor was concerned about the van’s age and work that needed to be done on it. He pointed to a list of needed work that the program had provided and noted that the sum of the seemingly small repairs could cost a good portion of the money the group has worked to raise in recent months. Repairs include brakes, the air conditioning unit and a transmission leak.

Tombarello also noted concern with high mileage on the Dodge. Nicolaisen argued that accepting the van wasn’t putting any hardship on the town except for a few hundred dollars a year in insurance costs. There wasn’t any harm in accepting it, he said, even if it failed soon after being put on the road. “This is a no brainer,” said Nicolaisen.

Devine was satisfied with a report he received on the vehicle’s condition, something he requested when the committee first put forth the idea of accepting the donation. Devine said he was 100 percent behind the donation if the needed repairs were made. Both Richardson and chair of the committee Nelson Rheaume expressed incredulity that members of the board were arguing against accepting the van.

A passionate Rheaume argued that the van was needed to help people in town and claimed that Caregivers, based in Derry, was not interested in helping them. Rheaume said Sandown is capable of taking care of its residents without the help of another community. He added that there wasn’t a downside to accepting the van, even if it was eventually junked.

Richardson said it was rare for a van to be donated, and it was unwise to turn it down. She said it would aid the group particularly in transporting individuals in wheelchairs. Copp, however, noted the vehicle was not a wheelchair van. Contacted after the meeting, Cindee Tanuma, executive director of Community Caregivers of Greater Derry, said she was more than willing to help the Sandown transportation program. Her program already provides transportation to Sandown residents.

In the past she has provided the Sandown group with the Caregivers’ volunteer manual, brochure and other documents. She also visited with the group in the early days to offer her services and has met with the selectmen to answer their questions.

Tanuma noted that she was in support of a program that would help the senior or homebound populations in Sandown and that it was wise to have more than one resource for that work. Caregivers serves the transportation, home and social needs of elderly, disabled and homebound residents in Sandown, Chester, Hampstead, Derry, Danville, Londonderry and Windham. About 30 percent of what the group does is provide rides, with the rest of its efforts going to home related services, from finding volunteers to building wheelchair access to helping with chores.

Sandown donates $2,000 a year to help Caregivers serve residents.
Since the Sandown program has started, Caregivers has not been able to attract new drivers, although requests for help continue to come in. Those requests for rides are often met by drivers from outside of Sandown.

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