Public transportation in Rossford was a topic of intense city council discussion last week, with some members saying the city should prepare an alternative to Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority service if voters decide in November the community should withdraw. However, the meeting ended with the issue hanging.
“If TARTA is removed, what are we going to do,” asked Councilman Jerry Staczek. He said council should have a plan “if TARTA goes.”
Council President Larry Oberdorf said TARTA was an advantage for Rossford. But he said that council should anticipate a no vote and act. Just what council could do, however, was an open question.
“There are people in our community that need public transportation,” Mr. Oberdorf said. “Council would have to look at some other form of public transit, which means going back to the voters for more money. ... I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
The discussion was spurred by a letter sent to council by Citizens Choice, the ad hoc group that collected enough signatures to place the question of withdrawing from TARTA on the ballot. It stated, “you may want to consider how the city would continue public transit,” as Perrysburg did with a private contractor when it dropped TARTA in March, 2013. Citizens Choice members went door to door to collect signatures after council decided last year the city should remain with the regional transit authority. However, because of legal requirements and time frames for the city and Wood County Board of Elections, the Aug. 7 deadline for final submission of the petitions to the elections board was missed.
The Wood County Prosecutor’s office advised the board not to put the issue on November’s ballot. But in April the prosecutor issued another opinion, stating that the question should be on this year’s ballot, even though the special state law permitting communities to quit TARTA on their own had expired. “The Ohio courts have repeatedly held that referendum and initiative petitions should be liberally construed to permit the exercise of the power,” the opinion said.
Rossford property taxpayers pay 2.5 mills for TARTA service, which amounted to about $307,573 for 2013, according to the Wood County Auditor. The city will recoup about $100,000 of that through the tax increment finance district in the Crossroads. Of that money, 38.4 percent goes to the city, 57 percent to the Rossford schools, and 4.6 percent to Penta Career Center.
After the council meeting, Citizens Choice member Bob Densic said that the group is not opposed to public transit in Rossford, but the city is paying for more service than it needs as evidenced by the near-empty buses that pass through town.
Rossford Law Director Kevin Heban said he expected a lawsuit if the vote went against TARTA because the enabling state legislation had expired. In the end, Councilman Greg Marquette said, “the TARTA vote might mean nothing.”
Contact Carl Ryan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6095.