Rossford to stick by TARTA
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 25 June 2013 10:19
ROSSFORD - In a decisive 5-2 vote, City Council decided Monday to remain a member of TARTA.
The vote marked a turnabout for the council where membership in the regional transportation authority has a been a sore topic for over a decade.
Councilmen have long complained about lack of ridership, lack of service and lack of responsiveness to the city's concerns, and along with Perrysburg, Rossford officials asked State Sen. Randy Gardner to push for legislation to allow communities an easier way to exit the system.
The council set up a committee to study the options and consider the alternatives. What they found, said Councilman Mike Scott, who was a member of the committee, was that providing any kind of service to the city's elderly and disabled who most rely on the system would be far more expensive than staying in.
The city residents now pay 2.25 mills to TARTA, Scott estimated that the city would have to raise that to 4 mills to provide its own, inferior service.
He noted that Rossford situation was different than Perrysburg's. Rossford's neighbor decided to leave TARTA and contract to provide its own system. Rossford, Scott said, was too small to carry that off.
Several members of council referred back to their earlier skepticism about the system.
"As much as I thought we needed out," said Councilwoman Caroline Eckel, "everything seems to keep pointing back to we are getting a great benefit. ... I think we're getting a lot more than we are paying for."
Those supporting staying in cited the needed to provide some service for those citizens, elderly, disabled or unable to drive, who need it. The call-a-ride service which allows passengers to be picked up for a $1 a ride has been especially valuable, members of council said. They also said it makes Rossford more desirable to developers.
Voting against the resolution were Jerry Staczek and Chuck Duricek. Both said they wanted to see the voters decide the issue.
Staczek was particularly adamant, stating that the proponents of staying with TARTA didn't want to put the measure on the ballot because they knew it would fail.
"This should go to the community," he said.
But Greg Marquette said that the community was represented by the seven members of council.
Duricek cautioned that TARTA may go back to its lack of responsiveness once Rossford decides to stay in the system.
Also supporting the resolution was council president Larry Oberdorf.
Comment before the vote was mixed.
Resident Dick Goeke said he sees empty buses driving by his home every day. He's even checked how many people get off the bus to work in a downtown factory and counted only 10, far less than the stream of cars going into the facility.
He said the elderly can get some service through the Wood County Committee on Aging.
Former Councilman Leonard Michaels said that support for TARTA at the ballot has steadily and precipitously declined over the years. Those were numbers council should pay attention to.
But TARTA also had its supporters. Penny Levine and Neal Levine, both of Sylvania, spoke on behalf of the group Community Advocates for Transportation Rights.
Penny Levine said she's had to depend on TARTA when she had surgery on her foot and couldn't drive.
The service helps those who cannot drive themselves to more fully enjoy life.
"There are people who need this," Neal Levine said, To exit TARTA would amount to "turning your backs on the community."
Rossford resident Cheryl Sharp echoed those sentiments. "I think TARTA taxes are not very great," she said. "A community is as great as the services it offers. Maybe we don't use it, but for people who do we pay so they can have a better life."
Mayor Neil MacKinnon expressed strong support for the system saying it was important in the development of the Crossroads of America area as well as a crucial service for some citizens.
He pledged that if the council were to vote against staying in TARTA he would veto the action.