Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer
Thursday, 03 January 2013 10:59
PERRYSBURG - City residents will have another bite at the apple when it comes to bringing back transit service.
|Perrysburg City Council member Todd Grayson gives a report on a transit ordinance during a council meeting. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Council members voted unanimously Wednesday night to put a five-year 0.8-mill transit levy on the May ballot that could jump-start public transportation in the city once more - though some in the audience wondered if it will be enough to keep up with demand.
A 1.45-mill transportation levy went down in defeat by fewer than 200 votes in November, scotching high hopes for a full, TARTA-like public transit service in the city - despite the efforts of council and even a grassroots organization, Perrysburg 4 Transit, which began in order to drum up support for the measure.
The levy reportedly suffered from vague ballot language, as well as pervasive confusion amongst residents, many of whom reportedly believed that at least some public transportation would remain in the city even if the levy was voted down.
Since November, a small cadre of locals has banded together to help provide rides for those in need, while a few have sought help from local organizations and governmental agencies.
The 0.8-mill levy, raising approximately $446,000 per year, would provide for a more limited transportation offering than that initially envisioned by council, while still affording ADA paratransit and call-a-ride service, as well as morning and evening shuttle routes in new vehicles.
Audience member Carol Russell, of the Perrysburg League of Women Voters, voiced that organization's concern that more residents than expected might make use of public transit in the city, and the levy might not provide the volume of service needed. The gap service contracted by the city with Ride Right LLC gradually increased in ridership this fall, but it was never clear what full ridership numbers might be. TARTA was famously reticent about providing ridership figures to the city.
"We think an increase (in millage), a little bit, wouldn't be all that much," she said, advocating that the city even increase to 1 mill.
The concern was echoed by Kevin Rantanen, who represented the city on the TARTA board of directors.
"We really should begin a service that could handle more than TARTA."
Mayor Nelson Evans responded that discussions with Ride Right have indicated that even 0.7 mills might be enough; the city is asking for .8 mills out of an abundance of caution.
"I prefer to start out low and beg for another 0.2 mills" if need be, said Councilman Todd Grayson, who has spearheaded the transit efforts.
Some of the monies raised by the levy would also be used to "pay back" the city for transit expenditures incurred this year when - and if - service begins again, because the levy funds themselves, collected as a property tax, would not begin flowing into Perrysburg's coffers until 2014.
St. Louis-based Ride Right would again be the transportation provider if the levy is approved in the spring. The city previously contracted with Ride Right for "gap" service between Sept. 27 and Nov. 27 after TARTA left Perrysburg this fall, and had received high praise from riders. It was noted at the meeting that the city would not need to go out to bid for services again if the levy passes.
"We had no reason not to go with Ride Right," said Grayson. Council President Joe Lawless agreed, noting that the firm has been able to provide a great deal of heretofore unavailable data to the city.
In other business, a public hearing was held just prior to the council meeting regarding a proposal allowing City Water Superintendent Mark Dunsmoor to retire from the post, and then be re-hired, albeit at a lower salary. The move is permitted under administrative policy.
Dunsmoor currently earns $94,610 per year; it is not yet known what he would earn if his retire/rehire is approved. He has worked for the city since 1998.
No comments were offered on the issue.