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After 43 years, Roethel leaves the coach line business

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After 43 years of service, Roethel Coach Lines made its final run Wednesday.

Owner Laurel Lee Roethel said she is being forced to sell the company’s remaining bus to help pay a $107,500 settlement imposed on her mother to cover the cleanup cost of an oil spill.

“I will be selling my bus. I am going to have to,” she said. “I have to generate some revenue, and with the insurance and fees that are associated with operating a bus company, the drivers testing — it is all mandatory, and that’s thousands of dollars a year.”

Ms. Roethel’s mother, Laurel B. Roethel, recently settled a decades-long dispute with the state over who was responsible for oil contamination discovered in 1988 but believed to have been left by a former Chevron gas station and an auto parts store on property she owns at 1801 Ford St. Under the agreement, Mrs. Roethel had to admit responsibility for the spill, while the gas company was fined $15,000 with no admission of liability. Her daughter is now shifting her effort from helping in the legal battle to scrambling to find the funds to pay the state.

“I’ve got to come up with money to pay this bill,” she said. “It is not my responsibility, it is my mother’s responsibility, but mom always took care of us when we were little, and now that she is in her golden years, we need to step up and take care of her.”

From 2002 to 2011 the company provided commuter bus service throughout St. Lawrence County. Last year, unable to afford the subsidy that paid for the service, the county chose to coordinate service through St. Lawrence NYSARC.

Though the coach line business employed only about 15 people, Ms. Roethel said, she spent a lot of time providing services to the community, especially to elderly and disabled north country residents.

“This is killing me, because we’ve always done things for the senior citizens and not charged,” she said. “I’m the emergency evacuation for the hospital and the nursing homes in Canton. We never charged them. Now they are going to have to find somebody else, and I hope they don’t need to, but they might find they are going to have to pay.”

The bus line is the second business the Roethels have lost in their dispute over the cleanup. Previously, they intended to operate a Kawasaki dealership on the site, but defaulted on the contract after the contamination was found.

“We lost our Kawasaki franchise and had to do restitution for nonfulfillment of sales,” Ms. Roethel said. “We didn’t really recover from that.”

Ms. Roethel said she’ll continue to operate Roethel Parcel Service, a FedEx shipper.

“We ship packages for Canadian customers,” she said. “It’s not huge money, but it brings a little in.”

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