People could be able to hop on a First Transit bus next year and head out to Hollenbeck’s Cider Mill in Virgil if all the details are worked out.
Meghan Lawton, the director of the Cortland County Visitors and Convention Bureau, and Matt Hollenbeck, the owner of Hollenbeck’s, spoke to county legislators Thursday during the Agricultural, Planning and Environmental Committee about the idea.
The committee members liked the idea so much they voted 6-1 to support the concept once things are worked out with First Transit, which runs the county buses. Legislator Douglas Bentley (D-Cortland) was absent.
Lawton said the idea came about because the mill sees a lot of traffic, but doesn’t have the biggest parking lot.
“My intent was to pay whatever the hourly rate was and offer it for free for riders and if nobody takes advantage of it I’d probably stop,” Hollenbeck said.
“So it would be a trial?” asked Chairwoman Sandra Price (D- Virgil, Harford).
“Sure, but it would be a maximum of seven weekends,” he said. “It’d just be in to that first week in November.”
Every committee member in attendance agreed the idea was great. Price noted the ride could be nice just for seeing Cortland’s countryside.
Hollenbeck also said he’s hoping for one of the stops to pick up students, so they “could get out there sort of late morning until basically until everybody was through the doughnut line after 4 p.m.”
“So until midnight then,” said Vice Chairman Chris Newell.
“Yeah,” Hollenbeck laughed.
Legislator Beau Harbin (D-Cortland) asked if Hollenbeck had reached out to Virgil School District to use the former Virgil Elementary School’s parking lot since the school is no longer open after it was shut down at the end of last school year. “That’s the Cortland Enlarged School District,” Hollenbeck said.
“Not so much enlarged anymore,” Harbin replied. “Yeah, the Cortland and small school district,” Hollenbeck said. “But yeah I have not, there’s hard feelings at least one way.”
“Yeah well maybe more than one way,” Price added.
However, it’s unlikely that anything will happen this year said Catherine Wilde, the mobility manager for Seven Valleys Health Coalition, which works with First Transit.
She said she’s met with First Transit and that officials aren’t opposed to the idea, but want to make sure they do it correctly if it does move forward.
“They want to make sure there is adequate time to publish any route changes and they also want to be able to notify other transportation providers of the option,” she said. “They just want to make sure they do everything and also the availability of bus drivers is first and foremost on their mind.”
She said a meeting will be scheduled with Hollenbeck, Seven Valleys, Director of the Cortland County Planning Department Dan Dineen and First Transit officials.
However, if everything works out a bus could stop there once or twice this year, said Jackie Carlton Leaf, the executive director of Seven Valleys.
“I understand they want a 30-day warning which I was a little short on this year, but we can consider this a 53 week warning for next year,” Hollenbeck said.