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Perrysburg council moves toward transit plan

It votes to scout consultants to study issue

PERRYSBURG -- Perrysburg should hire a consultant next year to draft an alternative transportation plan to TARTA, several council members said.

Last Tuesday, City Council voted to get qualifications from transportation consultants whose task would be to create a study on how much a new public transit option would cost, where it would go, and how to pay for it.

Councilman J. Todd Grayson estimated the study could cost $25,000.

"If Perrysburg runs its own system, we can decide what it looks like," Mr. Grayson said.

For years, the city has fought to leave the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, an agency that local officials argue is overtaxing Perrysburg residents for the level of service it provides them.

"That's the crux of our situation," city Administrator John Alexander said late last month during a meeting of the council's health, sanitation, and public utilities committee.

TARTA currently collects about $1.3 million in property taxes annually in Perrysburg, which pays for two bus routes that stop within the city and on-demand services primarily for people who are seniors or disabled.

Mr. Alexander said the city could put a two-part question on a future ballot, asking voters to approve leaving TARTA and then support funding for an alternative transportation plan.

"The question to the public is … what is that alternative and who is going to pay for it?" he said during last week's meeting.

But several officials acknowledged that voters who are frustrated and tired of paying for transportation altogether could approve leaving TARTA and also reject the new plan.

"Then that's the decision of the electorate," Mr. Alexander told the council.

Mr. Grayson also proposed putting a new 2.5-mill city tax on the May, 2012, ballot -- which is what taxpayers currently pay to TARTA -- and then contracting services with TARTA until the city can develop another transit plan.

"That would buy us some time," he said. "It would give us some leverage with TARTA. … Now we hold the purse strings."

Because of a new provision this year in Ohio's biennial budget bill, communities have until Nov. 5, 2013, to put TARTA referendum questions on the ballot.

Before the change in law, one TARTA member needed the approval of the other eight members -- which was unlikely -- to exit the organization.

Besides Perrysburg, TARTA's other members are Toledo, Sylvania Township, Sylvania, Ottawa Hills, Maumee, Spencer Township, Waterville, and Rossford.

Several Sylvania Township officials have also supported opting out of TARTA and are considering putting a pullout referendum on the ballot.

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