Towns without SEAT service invited to take a seat on board

Norwich - The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments voted unanimously on Wednesday to invite its member towns and cities to serve on an advisory board for the region's bus services.

The regional council is urging all of the southeastern Connecticut towns and cities to join the Southeast Area Transit District's board of directors, which could in effect advise the state Department of Transportation.

SEAT currently provides bus services to East Lyme, Griswold, Groton, Ledyard, Montville, New London, Norwich, Stonington and Waterford. Those nine communities appoint representatives to the board of directors.

As recommended under Wednesday's resolution, additional towns represented by the council, such as Bozrah, North Stonington, Preston and Salem, could voluntarily join the conversation by appointing their chief elected officials to advise the state on SEAT's services. The council would offer "administrative and technical support as needed" to the DOT, according to the resolution.

The DOT took over the transit district's operations in March following requests from the council of governments and the bus company. Under the takeover, the DOT assumed the costs and clean-up of an oil spill behind SEAT's Route 12 bus facility in Preston, which the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection detected in 2010.

SEAT has also had conversations with the DOT about conducting a transit development plan, which would study the region's transit services and needs in consultation with local entities, according to Michael Carroll, who became SEAT's general manager in early March.

In addition to more representatives on the board, the council is also encouraging current member towns and cities to specifically appoint the chief elected official as their SEAT board representative.

Montville Mayor Ronald McDaniel and Ledyard Mayor John Rodolico already serve on SEAT's board of directors.

While these steps could effectively set up the council of governments as SEAT's main advisory board, there would be additional steps needed before that could come to fruition.

A nonmember town or city would need approval from its own legislative body to join the SEAT board.

If approved, it could then join the board after a majority vote from the SEAT directors, according to a document from council Executive Director James Butler to the group's executive committee.

The new towns would not need to pay fees as the current nine members do, but could begin paying a portion of the fees if service eventually extends to their towns, according to the document.

k.drelich@theday.com

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