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Published: Tuesday, 4/1/2008

TARTA opt-out will hurt region, McNamara says

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Perrysburg City Council supports a bill to allow a city to quit TARTA. TARTA opt-out will hurt region, McNamara says Perrysburg City Council supports a bill to allow a city to quit TARTA. TARTA opt-out will hurt region, McNamara says
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A Toledo city councilman yesterday said a proposal to give communities the option of voting themselves out of regional transportation systems such as TARTA would hinder regional economic development.

Councilman Joe McNamara plans to introduce a resolution urging the Ohio General Assembly to reject House Bill 480, also known as the TARTA Voters' Rights Act. It was introduced by State Rep. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) in February.

Mr. McNamara said the bill would "decrease the mobility of the work force, increase the cost of running public transportation, and [it] rejects the concept of regionalism."

"Communities that think and act regionally are more successful at economic development," he said. "Businesses examine a work force's skill set and availability when deciding whether or not to locate there."

There has been dissatisfaction with TARTA in suburban communities; public officials and residents say they pay a disproportionate share of property tax for bus service their communities' residents hardly use.

Toledo Councilmen D. Michael Collins and Mike Craig joined Mr. McNamara in supporting his resolution. Mr. Collins said he believed all 12 councilmen would vote in favor of the resolution.

Jim Gee, general manager of TARTA, said unilateral withdrawal of a community would force TARTA to cut service because of revenue losses.

"Withdrawal of one community is unfair to TARTA's other eight members.• .•.•. They would have to take on added cost," Mr. Gee said. "The ones who [would] suffer the most from this are the very persons public transit exists to help: financially, physically, and mentally challenged persons."

Along with fixed-route and Call-A-Ride buses, the transit authority provides Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service vans for disabled people that can go anywhere in the nine-community service area.

Mr. Gee said leaders in Perrysburg, Rossford, and Sylvania Township have voted in favor of the bill while Ottawa Hills has voted to oppose it.

Sylvania City Council will discuss the matter Monday.

Perrysburg City Council on March 4 adopted a resolution supporting House Bill 480.

Perrysburg Mayor Nelson Evans in October said he would not make a formal recommendation on whether city voters should have approved or rejected the 1.5-mill TARTA replacement levy on the Nov. 6 ballot.

On Nov. 6, only Toledo, Ottawa Hills, and Sylvania approved TARTA's 1.5-mill, 10-year replacement levy, but that was enough for it to pass. Most voters in the six other member communities - Perrysburg, Rossford, Sylvania Township, Waterville, Maumee, and Spencer Township - voted no.

Mr. Evans, city council members, and citizens have said Perrysburg gets poor value for the $1.2 million that TARTA collected from Perrysburg taxpayers 2007.

Perrysburg property taxpayers pay it and another 1-mill TARTA levy that expires in 2011. Rossford is the only other Wood County community in TARTA.

Waterville Village Council debated the merits of House Bill 480 during its meeting last week, but took no action.

Mayor Derek Merrin said the village gets poor value for its tax dollars and that many who board buses in Waterville live outside the village, in Whitehouse or Monclova Township.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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