The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority board of trustees has authorized agency officials to negotiate with Perrysburg to provide contracted bus service after that city's TARTA membership expires later this month.
Any such contract, however, would have to come back to the authority's board for approval, which would require a special board meeting to maintain continuous service past the Sept. 22 end of Perrysburg's membership, TARTA general manager James Gee said after the board meeting Thursday.
Thomas Ramsdell, a TARTA trustee representing Sylvania, said ensuring his city's residents "have access to get around Perrysburg" was why he favored formal talks with that city, whose voters in March approved a resolution to leave the transit authority and will be asked Nov. 6 to approve a levy for a substitute local service.
TARTA President Bonita Johnson and board member Deb Angel voted against negotiating with Perrysburg. "Be careful about the precedents you set," Mrs. Johnson said, echoing Ms. Angel's concern that making a contractual arrangement with Perrysburg could encourage other member communities that have discussed leaving the transit authority to do so.
Francis Frey, Maumee's representative on the transit board, said he would support "a return to full service through the end of the year," as Jan. 1 is when Perrysburg's own service would start if the city's voters approve it.
After that, Mr. Frey said, the transit authority should operate in Perrysburg only if that city rejoins.
"Negotiations should be fair and tough, and equal for all members," said William Thomas, a Toledo representative on the transit board who said he had consulted with Mayor Mike Bell.
Kevin Rantanen, Perrysburg delegate to the TARTA board, said there was "definitely no guarantee" that the negotiations will lead to an interim bus-service contract in his city.
Bridgette Kabat, Perrysburg city administrator, said her community was primarily concerned about maintaining interim transit service to elderly and disabled residents who use the Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service, which provides door-to-door rides for passengers whose conditions preclude them from riding regular transit buses either some or all of the time.
Perrysburg also hopes the transit authority will establish a connecting point between the city's transit operation and its network, Ms. Kabat said.
"We would like to keep the lines of communication open," she told the transit trustees.
A provision in a budget law the Ohio General Assembly passed last year gave TARTA member communities the power to decide, by referendum, to withdraw without first getting other members' approval. That power expires on Election Day, 2013.
The law specified that transit service would end six months after a vote to withdraw is certified. Perrysburg held its referendum March 6 and the vote was certified 16 days later. City leaders initially argued that because TARTA's property tax would be assessed for the entire year, they should receive service through year's end; transit officials said the law gave them no latitude.
The Sylvania Township trustees have placed a similar referendum on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, and withdrawal has been discussed in several other TARTA communities.
TARTA's other members are Maumee, Waterville, Ottawa Hills, Spencer Township, Sylvania, Rossford, and Toledo.
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