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Published: Thursday, 10/7/2010

Member communities asked to consider Perrysburg's desire to withdraw from TARTA

BLADE STAFF

A resolution to allow the city of Perrysburg to withdraw from Toledo-area bus service will be sent to transit authority members for consideration, TARTA's board of trustees agreed Thursday morning.

Jim Gee, general manager for TARTA, said trustees voted 13-0 to begin the withdrawal process — a decision that must be rendered by the member communities.

"Essentially this is not a position for the TARTA board to take," Mr. Gee said. "Instead it's a simple request for action from the other member communities."

The city of Perrysburg already has sent out its own proposed resolution to members of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, such as to Waterville, Sylvania, and Maumee, but so far, those entities have taken no action on the withdrawal request.

Unless there is unanimous approval from the other TARTA members, Perrysburg's request isn't going to fly, and talk around the council table at Maumee earlier this week could indicate that Perrysburg is in TARTA to stay.

Maumee Mayor Timothy Wagener likened TARTA to the Hotel California, referring to lyrics of the popular Eagles song that ends with "We are programmed to receive. You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave."

Perrysburg officials tried unsuccessfully to get the city removed as a TARTA member in 2008, but the transit authority's board of trustees failed to take action on the request.

In July this year, Perrysburg Council authorized the administration to request that the city be removed from the territory served by the transit authority and that city property owners be relieved of the TARTA tax levies.

A council resolution to place an issue on the Nov. 2 ballot to let residents decide whether to continue to participate in TARTA was approved but fell one vote shy of passing as an emergency measure. That meant it couldn't meet the filing deadline for the Nov. 2 election.

Perrysburg contends that most residents do not use and do not want to pay for TARTA service, and the city could provide an alternative at a lower cost.

Perrysburg isn't the first entity to try to leave TARTA.

In Spencer Township, trustees have voted twice to withdraw from the transit authority, and twice were thwarted by the other TARTA members.

Opponents of Spencer's withdrawal said at those times that the service should be preserved to support future job development in the area and maintain public transportation for residents of the Oak Terrace low-income housing complex. Allowing Spencer to leave could set a precedent for dismantling the regional bus service, they said.

Maumee Council President Richard Carr said the city didn't support Spencer Township's withdrawal request years ago, and he's not in favor of Perrysburg opting out now. A regional transportation system should be just that, a regional service in which all members participate, Mr. Carr said.

During a meeting earlier this week, Mr. Carr said he and Mayor Wagener were opposed to placing the Perrysburg withdrawal request before council. However, council later agreed to go on record with a vote, and could act on the request Oct. 18.

Mayor Wagener, as he talked about TARTA being like the Hotel California, said the city of Oregon has wanted to become a member, but is "petrified" of joining because once you get in, you can't get out.

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority has nine members — Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Spencer Township, Maumee, Waterville, Perrysburg, and Rossford.

The city of Sylvania has set a council committee of the whole meeting for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 to discuss Perrysburg's withdrawal request. Sylvania is inviting representatives from TARTA and Perrysburg to attend.

Ottawa Hills Village Administrator Marc Thompson said no action has been taken, and there has been no discussion on the matter. Council hasn't met since the village received the request from Perrysburg, he said.

In Rossford, council intends to have its first reading Monday on Perrysburg's withdrawal request, said Rossford Administrator Ed Ciecka.

The matter had not yet come up before Toledo council or Sylvania Township's board of trustees, officials said.

Waterville council likely will take action on the matter Oct. 25, according to Mayor Derek Merrin, who said he personally supports Perrysburg's efforts to withdraw from TARTA.

Spencer Township officials didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.



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