The town is buying the bus — the SPHERE bus.

The selectmen have approved a town purchase of the SPHERE bus, appropriating $17,816 for that purpose at their Sept. 18 meeting. The bus will continue to be used by the town for transportation runs serving senior citizens and people with disabilities.

“It’s done very well the last several years,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said of the bus. “...It’s in excellent condition, with no issues.”

SPHERE is Special People’s Education, Recreation and Employment, serving the disabled community. It has been sharing use of the bus with the town since buying it seven years ago.

SPHERE leaders told the town earlier this year that they’d decided their members would be better served by a van, and would be moving ahead with a purchase.

The group offered the town a chance to buy the bus.

The selectmen had discussed it previously , then approved the purchase at their last meeting after SPHERE said it had another potential buyer interested.

Senior loop

Currently the bus is used mostly around town on a loop that includes Ballard Green, the Prospect Ridge housing complex, and Copps Hill Plaza shopping center.

The mostly senior riders of the bus tend to use it regularly.

“That fact that they’ve been very dependent on it is an understatement,” Marconi said.

As the sole owner of the bus the town will be in a position to possibly increase its use, though no immediate plans for that were approved.

Plans for now are simply to continue the bus loop as a service to seniors.

“It’ll run two or three days a week, initially,” Marconi said.

The operating costs for the bus program run about $48,000 a year, Marconi said, and have been split 30 percent paid by SPHERE and 70 percent covered by the town.

Marconi said the Housatonic Area Regional Transport had about $92,000 in state funding available for transportation-related purposes in Ridgefield, which could be put toward bus operations for the first two or three years.

“A couple of years, then what?” Selectman Bob Hebert asked.

“The three years will give the town an opportunity to assess,” Selectman Steve Zemo said, and make an informed decision on whether the program is worth continuing to spend money on.

The town may be able to come up with other uses, as well.

“We can use this a lot more,” Marconi said.

The price is right?

Selectman Hebert also wanted to be sure the price was a good one.

“If the value comes in at $12,000, and we’re paying $18,000 for it, we’ve got a problem,” he said.

The price given to the town is a “fair market value” provided to SPHERE by the bus dealer who’d originally sold the vehicle to the organization, according to SPHERE President Lori Berisford.

Controller Kevin Redmond recommended the purchase of the bus is being accomplished with funds from the town contingency account.

The bus can be seen, evenings, parked down by the highway garage off South Street.