Council hears first reading of resolution requesting removal from TARTA

By Deb Buker

"Council believes that a community must have the opportunity to independently determine that it is receiving the public transit services it expects in exchange for its financial support and that the electors of the City of Perrysburg have collectively determined that they are not receiving the expected services from TARTA..." states a portion of the TARTA removal request resolution introduced at Perrysburg City Council's meeting on October 9.

The resolution heard a first reading last week with a second reading scheduled for October 21 and a final reading and vote on November 4. (A copy of the resolution is on page 14).

For more than two years, members of an ad hoc committee, appointed by Mayor Nelson Evans, and city council members have been reviewing the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) service to the community in regard to annual taxes paid by homeowners. During the past seven years, property taxpayers have collectively paid $7.5 million for TARTA services in the city.

The committee and city council have made recommendations to TARTA to enhance transportation services to Perrysburg and they believe no "appreciable positive action" has been taken by the transit authority after numerous attempts. According to the resolution, council believes the "amount of property tax withdrawn from the city remains significantly disproportionate to the service delivered."

TARTA general manager Jim Gee attended the city's health, sanitation and public utilities (HSPU) committee meeting on September 23 where the committee (council members Joe Rutherford, John Kevern and Maria Ermie) recommended the resolution go to full council.

Mr. Gee responded on October 3 by distributing a letter to TARTA passengers which states: "As a TARTA passenger, you use public transit to gain access to jobs, services, and recreation. As a result, you understand the value of having transit service within your community. However, the Perrysburg City administration is preparing a resolution to attempt to remove Perrysburg from TARTA. "We need your help to protect your transportation choices. If Perrysburg successfully removes itself from TARTA, there will be no bus service within the city, the Perrysburg Call-A-Ride will no longer run, there will be no Mud Hens service and there will be no TARPS service within your community."

Councilwoman Ermie said she received a copy of the letter and believes some statements are "misleading and disingenuous at best." "The City of Perrysburg is requesting TARTA remove Perrysburg from the TARTA service territory for the sole purpose of providing transportation choices to our citizens. We pay more than $1.3 million annually for public transportation services without the ability to choose the best provider," explained Mrs. Ermie. "In November 2007, the vast majority of Perrysburg voters rejected TARTA's 1.5-mill levy, yet we continue to pay taxes significantly disproportionate to the services provided. This equates to taxation without representation and no choice to our citizens. "If Perrysburg is released by TARTA, we would issue a request for proposal for public transportation services to which TARTA and private transportation carriers may respond by submitting an official bid. This provides our citizens with transportation choices for the first time since 1974. "Perrysburg is committed to providing transportation services to our citizens and Mr. Gee is fully aware of this commitment. His statements are misleading and disingenuous at best."

Councilor Rutherford, who chairs the HSPU committee, also said he is disappointed in Mr. Gee. In a letter to the general manager, Mr. Rutherford wrote, "I am very disappointed that TARTA and you would attempt to spread falsehoods about our effort to provide the citizens of Perrysburg with the best, most cost-effective means of public transportation. Your statement, 'If Perrysburg successfully removes itself from TARTA, there will be no bus service within the city...' is blatantly untrue and is an attempt to instill fear in the citizens of Perrysburg who rely on public transportation for many of their daily transportation needs. "The City of Perrysburg's elected officials and administration has made it clear that we understand the need for, and fully support, public transportation for the citizens of Perrysburg. We have also made it clear that we are continually disappointed and underwhelmed with the service and responsiveness we receive from TARTA, especially given the $1.3 million plus in property taxes our constituents send to TARTA each year. "I strongly suggest that you re-think such disingenuous and divisive tactics in the future, as it reflects poorly on TARTA and its leadership...Such fear mongering by TARTA, especially among the elderly and disabled of our community, is not welcome in the City of Perrysburg."

Councilman Tim McCarthy told members that it is hard to argue with the premise of the resolution and he agrees the amount the city pays is disproportionate to the services, received but has concerns about regarding regionalism support. "We are kind of going contrary in modern governmental thinking-always pursing regionalism. And now to say we don't want to pursue regionalism on public transportation. I just want to make sure we know exactly what it is we are biting off here and we are prepared to chew it," said Mr. McCarthy. "We are going to need some regional transportation support too. Everything I heard is that we will provide transportation in town and maybe in the township. I don't think anyone has talked about creating a transportation network where we are going to transport to other communities." Councilor Ermie explained that a complete analysis of community needs for transportation  should be done and then determine what it will take to meet those needs. Mr. Rutherford added that the Wood County Commissioners have identified other existing providers of public transportation services in Wood County. "TARTA is not the only option we have," he said.

Mayor Evans told council that several transportation companies have contacted his office and offered their services. "We can touch base with them and get information and maybe that will ease some of the concerns out there. I will make the commitment here and I believe everybody on council agrees that we know we need public transportation in Perrysburg and we will supply it," he stated.

Several Perrysburg residents attended the council meeting and all expressed concern regarding a future transportation plan if TARTA releases the city. "As I said at the committee meeting, what they [current TARTA city riders] really want you to do is do your homework. Come up with something concrete that would be an option, not just talk about it but come up with something that is real that could be used instead of TARTA. We have not heard it for two years and we are still waiting," said Phyllis Morton, who served on the ad hoc committee and also was the city representative on the TARTA board. Another resident added that it would be less frightening if they could see a "plan B."

The second reading of the resolution will be Tuesday, October 21. The council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at the municipal building. The meeting is open to the public.

Other Business In other business, council:

Appointed Kevin Rantanen, former city councilman, as the city representative on the TARTA board.

Scheduled the following meetings: recreation, Wednesday, October 22, 5:30 p.m.; planning and zoning, Wednesday, October 22, 5:30 p.m.; and personnel, Tuesday, October 28, 5 p.m. All meetings are held in the municipal building and are open to the public.

Authorized an $80,000 contract with Nordmann Roofing Co. for repair of the senior center and fire station.

Authorized a $22,500 contract with Protective Coatings Technologies for cleaning and sealing manhole covers in the city.

Approved a $33,450 purchase of a 2009 Ford diesel truck with utility bed and plow from Kistler Ford.

Approved a $28,000 contract with Arcadis for engineering services on storm sewers in the Southwood Park subdivision.

Authorized two contracts with Jones and Henry Engineers for engineering services for the addition of a portable generator at the wastewater treatment plant, $15,000, and $20,000 for the White Road lift station.