ADAMS, Mass. — Officials last week approved an agreement that will allow the Council on Aging to share its "Fallon car" with its counterpart in Cheshire.
COA Director Erica Girgenti said the Board of Selectmen's approval will allow her to approach the Cheshire Selectmen and finalize the memorandum.
"I've talked a little bit about the car but it continues to be a success," she said. "We've put 2,700 miles on the car since we got it. We've had it for 29 weeks now and if we've completed over 30 trips. So that's just about a trip every week, sometimes two."
Fallon Health, a nonprofit provider based in Worcester, donated a Nisson Rogue each to Adams and to the Council on Aging in Lee in March accompanied by $3,000 grants through Elder Services of Berkshire County. The sport utility vehicles were designed to expand access to services for senior citizens and others beyond the regular van routes.
Girgenti said Adams' car has been used for medical trips to Albany, N.Y., and Rhode Island, to transport a blind child and his family to special event in Northampton, and to take veterans to Baystate Medical Center and out-of-state facilities. Another nine scheduled trips were canceled because the client found other transportation.
"So it's been really great opportunity to help individual community members who truly don't have any other options, which is scary to think," she said. A dozen volunteers drive the car and are split evenly between Adams and Cheshire residents.
Cheshire will be charged for use of the SUV based on mileage and a $20 coordination fee. The drivers are volunteers but if a paid driver is required, Cheshire would also pick up those costs. Use of the car will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
"The town of Cheshire has earmarked money with the current budget to support this transportation program," Girgenti. In response to questions, she said if the board did not move forward with signing the memorandum, it would show Cheshire that Adams was not interested. "The car is Adams', it belongs to Adams, so we need to say, 'we would like to be able to provide this opportunity for your residents as well, and this is our first step in offering it.'"
Although it would primarily be the Fallon car, it is also possible that the COA van might be used in special circumstances, she said, because the Cheshire van only operates three days a week. In that case, a paid driver would be required and Cheshire would have to cover the cost.
Girgenti also noted that the $3,000 grant the town received can be used toward car expenses for both towns.
Eugene Gebarowski of Cheshire, a member of that town's COA and a volunteer driver, confirmed that his town had approved $1,500 in transportation costs at town meeting and has another $1,500 donated by Adams Community Bank.
Gebarowski said he could not speak on behalf of the Cheshire Board of Selectmen, however, the Cheshire COA is supportive of the agreement and he did not think there would be any obstacles.
"We haven't really been able to publicize it and push too much because we don't have an agreement between the two towns," he said.
Girgenti said more volunteer drivers would be appreciated because sometimes it takes five or six calls to reach a driver because people have busy lives. Volunteers would have to have a good driving record, pass a criminal background check and attend a training.
Savoy has also indicated interest in having access to the car, she said, but thought the agreement would look much different because the smaller town does not have a COA director. She asked that the board provide some help and guidance in that direction.
The Selectmen approved the memorandum with Cheshire unanimously.
"It's time Cheshire and Adams come together and this is a good first step," said Selectman Joseph Nowak. "What went on during the school really soured a lot of people."
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