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Published: Monday, 10/18/2010

Perrysburg's request to leave TARTA on hold

BY JANET ROMAKER AND DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Maumee and Sylvania both know Perrysburg wants to back out of the Toledo area's regional transportation system, but neither is on a fast-track to accommodate the Wood County suburb.

At Maumee's city council meeting Monday night, Perrysburg's request to discontinue its association with the Toledo Area Regional Transportation Authority, or TARTA, was deferred to a Nov. 1 committee-of-the-whole meeting.

The Sylvania council, which convened Monday night as a committee-of-the-whole to hear presentations from Perrysburg and TARTA officials, deferred any action on Perrysburg's request for at least 30 days and assigned the matter to its community relations committee.

The moves are among the first steps of what could be an arduous process for Perrysburg. All nine TARTA members must approved of the plan before the authority's board of trustees can grant it. The other members include Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania Township, Spencer Township, Waterville, and Rossford.

Maumee Mayor Timothy Wagener, in correspondence with council, said Maumee has received notice from TARTA and from Perrysburg about the withdrawal request, including a letter from Mayor Nelson Evans asking Maumee to consent to Perrysburg's withdrawal.

In the letter, also signed by Council President Joseph Lawless, Perrysburg officials state that their city is an advocate for effective regional public transportation for its residents and visitors.

But it said Perrysburg isn't getting enough in return for the $1.3 million that its property owners contribute to TARTA's budget.

Council President Richard Carr said the matter was deferred to the committee of the whole so that all council members could participate on the withdrawal request.

Mayor Wagener requested that the matter be sent to the committee of the whole for consideration, but he was absent from the council meeting.

He was hospitalized over the weekend after experiencing an apparent transient ischemic attack, a “warning stroke” or “mini-stroke” that produces stroke-like symptoms. He is recuperating at home after being released Sunday; he anticipates returning to work within the next few days.

Speaking before Sylvania City Council, Perrysburg councilman Mike Olmstead described his city's situation as “taxation without representation,” because Perrysburg voters have consistently voted against TARTA levies in recent years yet remain obligated to pay taxes into the transit authority.

“We understand the need for public transportation, but the majority of our citizens have said, ‘We don't want to pay for public transportation in its current form,'” Mr. Olmstead said.

Perrysburg could meet its public-transit needs for far less than the $1.3 million it now pays into TARTA, he said.

Sylvania Township's trustees have scheduled a meeting next Monday at 7 p.m. to discuss the matter.

“It is a big issue if you let one member out, because it's going to cost the rest of us more if you lose the revenue from Perrysburg,” Sylvania township trustee Kevin Haddad said during a discussion with Sylvania city council.

James Gee, the transit authority's general manager, acknowledged during that meeting that Perrysburg is a “donor” community to TARTA because the service provided to Perrysburg costs about $800,000 to operate.

The imbalance occurs because Perrysburg has “affluent housing values and low ridership,” Mr. Gee said.

But along with its impact on the TARTA budget, eliminating service to Perrysburg would cause “a social impact on the region” by affecting mobility in and out of that city, he said.

Sylvania City Councilman Doug Haynam said his council should “go out of our way” to hear from transit riders in Sylvania about how losing service to Perrysburg might affect them before it acts on Perrysburg's request.

A resolution to allow the city of Perrysburg to withdraw from Toledo-area bus service was sent to transit authority members for consideration, following the TARTA's board of trustees recent decision to begin the withdrawal process.

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

It isn't the first to try to leave TARTA.

Spencer Township trustees voted twice to withdraw, but were thwarted by the other TARTA members. At those times, opponents said TARTA service should be preserved to support job development and maintain public transportation.

Contact Janet Romaker at:jromaker@theblade.comor 419-724-6006.



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