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Bus fleet grounded by converter thefts

  • Lengths of exhaust pipe cut by a catalytic converter thief with a reciprocating saw and damaged oxygen sensors top a pile of scrap removed during repairs at WAWECO in West Hartford, Vt., Monday, July 12, 2021. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

The Eagle Times
Published: 7/29/2021 3:35:02 PM

An overnight theft of catalytic converters at Sullivan County Transportation has temporarily disabled community bus operations and sent the nonprofit’s staff and volunteers scrambling to assist county residents with urgent transportation needs.

Sullivan County Transportation, a community bus and ride service for residents with mobility needs, reported on Tuesday that seven of their eight buses are currently inoperable following an overnight theft of catalytic converters from the bus fleet, which was stationed in Claremont at the organization’s headquarters at 6 Kinney Place.

The only bus spared was parked at VIP Tires & Services, where it was being serviced, said Teri Palmer, transportation director of Southwestern Community Services, which operates the bus program.

“VIP is really good to us and put it inside at night,” Palmer said.

Catalytic converter theft has been on the rise of late, regionally and nationally. A catalytic converter is an emissions control device attached to a vehicle’s exhaust system that filters toxins from your car’s gas emissions. Inside a catalytic converter are precious metals including platinum, palladium and rhodium that help neutralize some of the toxins in the car exhaust.

These precious metals are also very valuable, attracting thieves who aspire to sell the metals to scrap yards or recyclers and making a catalytic converter very expensive to replace. The average cost of a catalytic converter replacement, including parts and services, is roughly between $1,000 to $2,500, though if stolen, the vehicle could have suffered additional damages underneath.

“This just really impacted the riders,” Palmer told The Eagle Times. “So many people rely on us to get back and forth to work, to get their groceries, their medical appointments or just rides in general. ... That’s what really bothered us the most this morning, the people calling in wanting to know how they are going to get places.”

The organization’s volunteer drivers, who use their personal vehicles, are still giving individuals rides to their medical appointments and local cab companies are also helping to fill the need, Palmer said.

But even with the volunteers going above and beyond, many county residents will still face the burden, Palmer said. The volunteer program or cab companies lack the equipment like the busses have to accommodate riders in wheelchairs, for example.

Additionally, the buses are the only inter-municipal public transit system available, providing travel between Claremont, Newport and Charlestown. The bus shutdown also includes Sullivan County Transportation’s newest route, an inter-county commuter service connecting Claremont to Lebanon, enabling Sullivan County residents to access employment opportunities, medical services at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth Coach.

County residents could offer to provide a ride to a neighbor or another resident in need over the next few days, Palmer said.

The Claremont Police Department, in a press release on Tuesday, asked that anyone with information relating to these thefts contact Officer D.J. O’Sullivan at (603) 542-9538 or dosullivan@claremontnh.com. Anyone who wishes to remain anonymous should call the Claremont Police tip line at (603) 542-7026.

As for preventing future catalytic converter thefts, Palmer said the organization is discussing short-term solutions. Sullivan County Transportation is still proceeding with a plan to open a multi-purpose transportation facility within the next couple of years, depending on funding and construction timelines. This facility, among its many functions, would also provide a secured shelter for the department’s vehicle fleet to discourage future theft.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.




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