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VIEW THE JULY 31, 2014

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City council opposes alternative plan to TARTA; lawsuit threatened

By Beth Church
If Rossford citizens decide in the November election to opt out of TARTA, city officials are being urged to create an alternative transit plan.
However, Rossford City Council is balking at a back-up plan–preferring instead to encourage voters to remain in TARTA.
At a meeting Monday evening, council discussed a letter from Don Montague of Citizens Choice Committee, which organized the initiative for voters to decide.
“We have always felt that the citizenry should have been given that right to have decided TARTA’s fate–much like the way that TARTA became a service in Rossford at the point that it was created in the 1970s in a general election,” the letter states.
Council voted in June 2013 to remain as a member of the public transit system, so the decision did not go to the ballot.
A group of citizens then circulated a petition, collecting more than 350 signatures, asking for voters to decide on TARTA membership.
Their petition did not meet the election deadline last year, but earlier this year, a Wood County prosecutor’s opinion directed the Board of Elections to place the issue before voters on November 4.
Citizens Choice Committee is asking council to take action on an alternative transit plan so a levy could appear on the November ballot.
“You may want to consider how the city would continue public transit, how much millage to assess and the choices to provide the service,” the letter states.
“Please know that this committee is supportive of such action so as to not leave the community with limited options of public transit,” Mr. Montague continues.
Committee members spoke with Ride Right–the company that provides transit service in Perrysburg–and provided council with a list of other local transportation services.
Council member Caroline Zuchowski Eckel noted that two years ago, city officials hired a consultant, surveyed residents, analyzed numbers and met with Perrysburg leaders to discuss transit options.
“Council has spent so much time on this issue,” she said. “I believe we can’t get better service doing it on our own.”
Mrs. Eckel pointed out that the same consultant who encouraged Perrysburg to opt out of TARTA also recommended the Rossford maintain its membership because of the value.
Transit consultant Clear View Strategies was hired in 2012 to help Rossford explore public transportation options.
It provided a report with 10 alternative ways to offer transportation services and concluded that Rossford citizens receive about $500,000 per year in value from the transit agency.
Rossford property owners pay $307,573 annually for TARTA’s 2.5-mill tax levies, according to Wood County Auditor Mike Sibberson.
“Opting out is going to provide a great financial burden to the city,” Mrs. Eckel said.
Mayor Neil MacKinnon III agreed, “We’re getting a heck of a service for the dollar amount. We made what I think was the best decision for the City of Rossford.”
“To get out of TARTA would be a huge mistake,” he explained. “It would hurt a segment of our community that doesn’t have a voice.”
If Citizens Choice Committee supports opting out of TARTA, the mayor believes the group should develop an alternate plan to serve residents.
Council President Larry Oberdorf served on council’s TARTA committee for many years and initially opposed membership, but then discovered “it is most advantageous to the citizens of Rossford to remain in TARTA.”
“There are people in our community who need public transportation,” he said, specifically mentioning Call-A-Ride and the handicap TARPS services.
He questioned the logic of opting out of TARTA and replacing it with a private system requiring a higher levy than now being paid.
“How many voters are going to vote in another levy? I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Mr. Oberdorf said. “We would have to go back to the voters for more money.”
Councilman Jerry Staczek disagreed, urging council members to be prepared with a plan.
“If TARTA is removed from Rossford, what are we going to do?” he said. “The community is looking to us for leadership.”
Council member Eckel said she believes council should demonstrate leadership by urging voters to remain in TARTA.
Councilman Greg Marquette questioned whether a vote would actually end Rossford’s membership in TARTA.
Law Director Kevin Heban said a legal question could be raised about the “retroactive” nature of the prosecutor’s decision.
“One assistant prosecutor gave an opinion, and frankly I disagree with that,” he said. “If we’re voted out of TARTA, I think the next step is going to be a lawsuit.”
Resident Bob Densic, a member of Citizens Choice Committee, told council that TARTA is not providing the value of service it should.
“We agree there is a need for public transit. What we disagreed with is what the level of that need is,” he said. “An empty bus is not of value to citizens. Let’s match a level of service to the needs.”
Councilman Robert Ruse said he believes TARTA usage may have increased.
“I see more people at the bus stop than ever before,” he added.
Mr. Ruse said council’s work with the transit consultant already determined the citizens’ needs.
“We don’t need to re-analyze it,” he said.


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Rossford lies at the heart of the Crossroads of America, an area experiencing tremendous economic growth, located at the crossroads of Interstate 75 and the Ohio Turnpike. The city's population of approximately 6,000 is primarily a mix of descendants of Polish, Czechoslovakian, German and Ukrainian workers who came from Pennsylvania to work at the glass plant, now Pilkington.

Rossford was incorporated as a village in 1939 and as a city in 1971. The City is a municipal corporation which operates under its own charter and is governed by a mayor and seven-member City Council. Rossford is served by full-time police and part-time fire departments, dispatched from the neighboring Village of Walbridge.

The City maintains a Community Recreation Center and three parks, one of which,Veterans Memorial Park, features a seasonal marina along with picnic areas and diamonds and courts for baseball, tennis, basketball and volleyball.

Rossford has three elementary schools, Glenwood, Indian Hills and Eagle Point, a junior high and high school and All Saints parochial school for grades pre-kindergarten through eight.

The city boasts a public library and many service and community organizations such as the Rossford Business Association, Lions Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Its Rossford Community Service League sponsors annual activities such as a Valentine's Day Dance, Easter egg hunt, Halloween, Memorial Day parades and their Christmas tree lighting.

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