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Published: 10/26/2010

Perrysburg's effort to exit TARTA to be hearing topic

BLADE STAFF

Before it makes a decision on supporting Perrysburg's bid to exit TARTA, Waterville Council wants time to review the request and to hold a public hearing.

The hearing will be at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8 during its next regular meeting, council decided Monday night.

Among those attending the council session were James Gee, general manager of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, who explained the process for Perrysburg to opt out. All TARTA members must approve of the plan before TARTA's board of trustees can grant the withdrawal request.

Perrysburg property owners contribute $1.3 million a year to TARTA's budget, and Mr. Gee said the city is the recipient of $800,000 a year in TARTA services. Perrysburg could meet its public-transit needs for far less than it now pays into TARTA, city officials have said.

If Perrysburg is allowed to withdraw, TARTA would have to make up the revenue somehow, such as by reducing expenses, Mr. Gee said. TARTA's revenue is $32 million a year, he said.

Perrysburg joined TARTA in 1974, Mr. Gee said.

Councilman Ann Cherry said she wants to see Perrysburg's plans for providing transportation services to its residents, and she described public transportation as a vital service.

Waterville Mayor Derek Merrin said he would prefer to vote on the withdrawal request after further consideration of the matter, and he said the issue is important enough for a public hearing to give others a chance to offer comments.

After the meeting the mayor said, "The city of Perrysburg should not be forced to purchase a product that it no longer wants or needs."

Waterville was the only one of TARTA's nine member communities whose governing body was not represented at a members' meeting held last night by the Sylvania Township trustees to discuss Perrysburg's withdrawal request.

During that 35-minute session, Rossford City Councilman James Richards predicted his community might be next to seek an exit, and John Jennewine, a Sylvania Township trustee, said he was "pretty confident Sylvania Township would be better off outside" the transit authority too.

But having made her case that Perrysburg's $1.3 million in annual property taxes paid to TARTA far exceeds the value of services its residents receive - or even want - Perrysburg councilman Maria Ermie predicted that her city's request will be denied.

"In all likelihood, we probably won't get the unanimous vote," she said. "But we're hoping that this will at least result in a cooperative effort to get more cost-effective and efficient public transportation."

TARTA members include Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania Township, Spencer Township, Maumee, Sylvania, and Rossford.



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