Perrysburg city officials are meeting today to determine how to move forward after they failed to pick a transit company last week.
The city is developing its own transit service and is asking voters to approve a 1.45-mill, five-year levy on the Nov. 6 ballot to pay for it. In March, Perrysburg voters approved opting out of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, making it the first community to choose to leave the nine-member organization.
But officials did not reach a clear consensus on which private company should win a city contract to replace TARTA. From six bids, a city committee selected its top two choices -- MV Transportation, a nationwide company based in Dallas, and Black & White Transportation, which operates out of Toledo.
However, at a full city council meeting last week, several officials said they were concerned MV was not the lowest bidder and preferred to hire a more local company.
A special committee meeting is set for 6 p.m. today at city chambers to decide the next step for re-examining the bids.
As the discussion continues at city council, there is uncertainty among bus riders about the future of transportation.
Not only is the city's new system dependent on getting a new levy passed at the ballot box, but the city is to lose its TARTA service Sept. 22 -- months before the new system would start Jan. 1.
Councilman J. Todd Grayson asked for TARTA to contract with the city to provide service for disabled and elderly riders during the gap period.
"If TARTA wants to make an example of Perrysburg and punish ADA passengers in the process, you certainly have the power to do so. My hope is you, the board, will decide to help those in need of transportation while getting paid by Perrysburg to do it," Mr. Grayson wrote in a July 27 letter to TARTA's board of trustees. "I want to re-emphasize that there is no 'free lunch' being requested here."
But several TARTA board members, putting aside the contentious relationship with Perrysburg over the severed ties, wondered aloud whether the transit authority could provide the partial service legally under state and federal guidelines.
Board member Ted Kaczorowski said emotions surrounding the issue might be a moot point if the board can't legally fulfill such a request.
"The paratransit only exists as a complementary service to the fixed line," added board member Shelley Papenfuse, who said she was concerned grievances might be filed against TARTA. TARTA board president Bonita Johnson was more blunt during the TARTA board of trustees meeting last week.
"The people of Perrysburg made their stance clear with their vote," she said. "I think we need to stop wasting a lot of our time."
TARTA trustee Kevin Rantanen, Perrysburg's representative on the TARTA board, asked the board either to negotiate alternatives to council's proposals outlined in Mr. Grayson's letter or come up with a compromise in which the transit authority provides service through Nov. 10, which is the date through which Mr. Rantanen said he understood Perrysburg has paid taxes toward the transit authority.
"I know we have had a contentious relationship in the past," he said.
TARTA hopes to provide legal answers to its policy committee by the committee's next meeting, Aug. 16.
Mr. Grayson called the board's reaction to his letter "foolish and shortsighted."
"We're extending an olive branch to work together to help the people in northwest Ohio," he said Monday. "We want to connect with Toledo. TARTA, tell us how to do it. … If we're willing to pay, who loses? I can't find a loser, other than TARTA's ego."
Staff members Gabrielle Russon and Roberta Redfern contributed to this report.