Here comes the new senior van

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Bellport Village seniors requiring a ride to the doctor, dentist, bank, shopping center or other necessary appointment will be able to use the new van next week.

The vehicle is a spiffy, white, brand-new, never-used 2020 Toyota. It seats six passengers, one wheelchair, and has a lift.

You can thank Don Mullins, director of code enforcement, for scouting it out. He found the available vehicle in Florida after an intense search.

“Don and Katy Mehrkens worked out the van,” confirmed mayor Ray Fell.

“We get about 150 to 200 ride requests a year,” said Mehrkens, deputy village clerk.  Tara Crane, director of senior programs, oversees the rides. Bellport residents who are seniors can call in their requests for the days that village hall is operating.

Mehrkens collaborated with Alison Karpi, Brookhaven Town Housing and Human Services commissioner, on the funding, which comes from HUD for senior programs.  The van costs a monthly $786.60 via a five-year lease. Joe Bottijliso remains as van chauffeur.

“The old one was aging out,” Fell said, adding costs were mounting regarding repairs. “We purchased it used in 2004. The Highway Department might need it, or we’ll sell it.”

The van was being housed at Proliner Rescue in Medford, which facilitated its transport, while the lease agreement and registration were being finalized.

How long has the village had the van program for seniors?

“This goes back to when Frank Trotta was mayor,” Mullins said.

“It’s at least 20 years,” added Fell.

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