Rossford group wants referendum on TARTA

Voters desire say in membership, committee says

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority operates the TARPS paratransit service in Toledo and other member cities.
The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority operates the TARPS paratransit service in Toledo and other member cities.

The question of whether Rossford should remain in the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority is back in play, a month after city council seemingly put it to rest.

Citizens’ Choice, an ad hoc citizens’ committee, is attempting to collect enough signatures through an initiative petition to put the question of TARTA membership on the Nov. 5 ballot.

To be successful, the petitioners must collect valid signatures of 275 registered Rossford voters and submit them to the city. The city then must submit the petitions to the Wood County Board of Elections by Aug. 7, said Terry Burton, the elections board’s director.

Bob Densic, the Citizens’ Choice secretary, said the issue is not TARTA per se, but giving voters a chance to decide on Rossford’s membership in the regional transit agency.

“This is not about TARTA. Our strongest message is we think the people should be making the decision. If this is on the ballot, and the voters say we don't want to opt out, that’s fine,” he explained.

Added Don Montague, the Citizens’ Choice chairman: “The citizens created the transportation consortium, so it seems only appropriate that they would have the right to continue Rossford’s relationship with TARTA or take issue with it.”

Mr. Densic and Mr. Montague believe council erred last month when it decided on its own that the city should remain a member. The vote at the June 24 meeting was 5-2; Jerry Staczek and Chuck Duricek dissented on the grounds that staying in TARTA or withdrawing should be put to the voters.

Special state legislation permitting communities to exit TARTA without the unanimous permission of other member communities sets a Nov. 5 deadline for deciding.

Perrysburg has been the only community to withdraw. Sylvania Township and Spencer Township voters rejected withdrawal referendums last year.

The Rossford council made its decision after months of study and deliberation. Its own TARTA committee recommended the city remain a member. The committee found Rossford’s net cost for TARTA service was a little more than $200,000 per year and a contract with a private provider would cost twice that in the first year alone.

City property-tax payers send TARTA $305,000 per year through a 2.25-mill tax; the city treasury recoups $95,000 annually through the tax increment financing district established in the Crossroads, a cost offset that would be lost if the city adopted a private service.

The city's outside public transit consultant found Rossford was getting its TARTA service at below cost.

Rossford Administrator Ed Ciecka said the city law director researched the procedural requirements for sending the petitions to the elections board. He did not believe a vote of council was required.

Mayor Neil MacKinnon described the initiative petition as “unfortunate.” He strongly favors remaining in TARTA, saying certain local employers rely on it for their workers’ commutes.