Perrysburg public transit at end of road

Residents vent ire at officials

11/28/2012
BY REBECCA CONKLIN KLEIBOEMER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Gregory Symington, who uses a motorized scooter, tells the committee that he has contacted the U.S. Justice Department and is considering filing a lawsuit against the city.
Gregory Symington, who uses a motorized scooter, tells the committee that he has contacted the U.S. Justice Department and is considering filing a lawsuit against the city.

As Perrysburg's public transportation system came to a halt on Tuesday night, so did the freedom of residents who rely on the service.

“That's my life source. I have no other transportation,” Rosa Linda Brown said.

She was among several Perrysburg residents who attended Tuesday's meeting of the Health, Sanitation, and Public Utilities committee, which discussed options following the narrow defeat of a transportation levy on Nov. 6.

PHOTO GALLERY: Perrysburg Committee: Transit Funding to End

While the committee is likely to recommend to city council members that they place a reduced-millage issue for transportation on the May election ballot next year, any hope that the city would draw from the general fund to extend current services was dashed.

“There is no money to provide service past today,” councilman J. Todd Grayson, committee chairman, said.

After counting provisional votes, the Wood County Board of Elections on Tuesday certified the defeat of the 1.45-mill, five-year levy that would have hired Ride Right of St. Louis to operate Perrysburg's proposed transit system.

Ride Right had been providing interim call-a-ride service since TARTA service ended on Sept. 22, a result of residents voting to withdraw from the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority in March.

Perrysburg resident Pinky Edens said she had been offering rides to folks when she could, but she said many residents needed to be transported in vehicles that accommodate wheelchairs. She said the city should provide some kind of paratransit service for them.

“As a community, how can you ignore that?” Ms. Edens said.

Councilman Timothy McCarthy said council members were hesitant to overturn the will of the voters and use their tax dollars for transportation service.

“There wasn't support for it,” he said.

Gil Lutz, right, and his dog, Satchel, arrive by Perrysburg Transit at the municipal building. His ride was the final call-a-ride service offered by the city.
Gil Lutz, right, and his dog, Satchel, arrive by Perrysburg Transit at the municipal building. His ride was the final call-a-ride service offered by the city.

Residents who had been using Ride Right's services responded with disappointment and anger.

“I will have the least amount of independence I've had my entire life,” said Gil Lutz of Perrysburg. He and his seeing-eye dog arrived at the meeting via the last call-a-ride service offered in the city.

Ms. Brown said she uses public transportation to take granddaughters in her care to the library and to church, as well as get to the grocery store, medical appointments, and work. She said city council had demonstrated a lack of concern for people without means.

“It's a sin to treat people that way,” she said.

Gregory Symington, who uses a motorized scooter, said he had contacted the U.S. Justice Department and was considering a lawsuit against the city.

“I'm going to raise a lot of hell. ... That's how mad I am,” Mr. Symington said.

Mr. Grayson said the city would have more than enough money to pay for transportation if TARTA would refund the $400,000 it had collected for services through the end of the year that it no longer was providing.

Timothy Fisher, deputy finance director for the city, estimated that an extension of current services through May 7, the earliest time the issue could be put before voters again, would cost between $102,900 and $125,900.

Pinky Edens, center, listens to committee members during the meeting. She says she has been offering rides to residents but provisions need to be made for people with disabilities.
Pinky Edens, center, listens to committee members during the meeting. She says she has been offering rides to residents but provisions need to be made for people with disabilities.

In October, Ride Right had conducted 591 trips at a cost of $18,495.23, or about $31 per trip, according to city administrator Bridgette Kabat. She said the firm served about 30 to 40 regular riders daily.

The committee agreed that another proposed levy for transportation would be at a lower millage, based on data collected by Ride Right and a reassessment of fixed routes and reduction in service hours.

Mark Hummer of Perrysburg said a transportation levy campaign should be modeled after that of the Perrysburg Exempted Village School District, which was successful in gaining voter approval of a large, incremental tax on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Mr. Hummer said the school district was clear about telling the community what they would be missing if its levy failed, and council needed to be just as clear in communicating what kind of transportation service would be offered.

“I think you're now on the right track to get this levy passed,” he said.

The Health, Sanitation, and Public Utilities committee next meets at 5 p.m. Dec. 20.

Contact Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer at: 419-356-8786, rconklin@theblade.com, or on Twitter @RebeccaConklinK.