Perrysburg City Council decided Tuesday night to start negotiating not only with a new Missouri transit company but also with TARTA to potentially contract for service sometime this year.
But that transit service might not start soon enough, critics said at the meeting.
The city is setting up its own independent transit system after Perrysburg voters approved leaving the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority in the March election.
That new service is scheduled to start Jan. 1. TARTA is scheduled to pull its buses from Perrysburg on Sept. 22, when its statutory obligation to provide service expires.
Perrysburg's new system, however, also hinges on approval by voters of a 1.45-mill, five-year levy on the Nov. 6 ballot that would pay for the service.
At Tuesday's meeting, council voted unanimously to allow its new city administrator, Bridgette Kabat, to negotiate with TARTA General Manager James Gee to solve the service gap.
Preliminary talks are expected to start Friday, although beginning negotiations on TARTA's end is subject to approval of the transit authority's board.
But Ms. Kabat said the city administration is looking to contract starting Nov. 7 -- if the levy is passed -- until the end of the year when the proposed local service would take over. That drew criticism from some council members and two audience members.
"I'm a little concerned," said Councilman Thomas Mackin, who added he didn't want to strand Perrysburg bus riders starting on Sept. 23. "There are users who rely on the service and had reasonably justified, in my belief, the council was going to step forward."
Councilman J. Todd Grayson argued that the city just needed to sit down and talk with TARTA. Those discussions could include what happens next month, as well as the end of the year and how Perrysburg's proposed system could connect into TARTA in 2013, he argued.
"We're opening that communication highway," Mr. Grayson said.
TARTA is the only major Ohio transit authority funded by a property tax, and some suburban members have complained their property owners pay more in taxes than their communities get back in service.
In other related action Tuesday, council voted 5-1 to start negotiating a contract with Ride Right, a company from Lake St. Louis, Mo.
Last week, a city committee recommended Ride Right out of four finalists because its bid of $530,936 in the first year was the lowest.
Some council members expressed hesitancy Tuesday about not selecting a local company but voted in favor of it anyway because of the price. "A local company would make sense to me," Councilman Michael Olmstead said. But, "price is the primary driver here."
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