Confusion derailed transit levy
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer
Friday, 09 November 2012 10:39
PERRYSBURG - The failure of a transit levy Tuesday night has left the city with a burning question: What next?
At a special meeting of Council's Health, Sanitation and Public Utilities committee called Thursday, members attempted to answer that question as an audience of about 30 citizens and media looked on.
The 1.45-mill property tax levy - which failed election night by fewer than 200 votes - was to have funded public transit service provided by Ride Right LLC, which had been working in the city to fill in the transit "gap" left after TARTA service ended in September. The service - currently consisting of paratransit and limited call-a-ride offerings - had so far received highly positive reviews. If the levy had passed, a full service with a route was expected to begin by Jan. 1.
Without the levy, service from Ride Right is slated to stop when the final election results are certified by the Wood County Board of Elections. As yet the certification date has not been set by the board, though it will be between Nov. 16 and Nov. 27.
One thing became clear from the discussion at the meeting: confusion reigned amongst residents about the particulars of the levy.
Committee chair Todd Grayson noted that since Tuesday he has heard comments from voters who thought that there was another transit system in place, or that TARTA money was still available, and so the passage of the levy wasn't necessary.
"People I talked to, they just didn't know enough to go forward," said committee member John Kevern.
Grayson also conceded that the ballot language was "not the clearest read in the book."
"A lot of people thought that even though the levy went down there was still going to be disability service in Perrysburg," said Perrysburg 4 Transit co-chair Gil Lutz.
"We missed it some how. I don't know how we blew it."
"A confused voter is going to vote no on a levy. As they should," said Grayson.
The committee agreed to recommend that a special council meeting be held for the purpose of seeking to extend the current situation with Ride Right through the end of November, while they seek alternate funding options, including the possibility of community block grants, until another levy vote.
Municipal Administrator Bridgette Kabat noted that the city - which is currently paying for Ride Right service from a municipal development fund, a line item in the budget - is paying about $18,500 per month for service.
There is also the possibility of putting the matter again before voters - possibly with a different millage - on the March ballot.
On a side note, it was stated that there are still more than 300 provisional ballots yet to be counted in the city, though "I think it's unlikely to change the result," commented committee member Tim McCarthy.
Audience members, including local businessman Rick Ruffner, as well as Lake Township Police Chief and fwormer city councilman Mark Hummer, cautioned the committee about using taxpayer funds to continue to pay for gap service until a new levy is passed, because the matter had been voted down by the residents. Both men, however, noted their support for transit service in the city, and had worked on the campaign.
Resident Beck Williams urged the committee that, if a new levy effort is to be forthcoming, the campaign needs to start sooner rather than later.
"The reality is, here we are. If this goes back on the levy again in March we need a Plan B, if this is what council feels is necessary."
"The decision needs to be down as soon as possible. Because time is of the essence."