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Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon III discusses the impact of TARTA on the city. He was joined at a press conference last Friday by Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, third from left, and Maumee Mayor Richard Carr.
Area mayors emphasize need for TARTA
The mayors of Rossford, Maumee and Toledo came together last Friday to emphasize the need for TARTA to continue bus service throughout the region.
Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon III, Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins and Maumee Mayor Richard Carr held a press conference to discuss the impact of TARTA on local residents.
Rossford voters will decide on the November 4 ballot whether the city should remain a member of TARTA.
The event took place at the TARTA bus stop on Dixie Highway near Electro Prime Inc., which has many employees riding the bus to work.
Electro Prime is among the top 10 businesses paying income tax to Rossford.
Mayor MacKinnon is supportive of the city remaining as a member of TARTA for economic reasons along with “the human condition.”
He believes that elderly and disabled members of the community should continue to have access to Call-A-Ride, plus the TARPS handicap bus service.
Rossford City Council hired transit consultant Clear View Strategies in 2012 to explore public transportation options.
The consultant provided a report with 10 alternative ways to offer transportation services.
It concluded that Rossford citizens receive about $500,000 per year in value from the transit agency, although they only pay $307,573 annually for TARTA’s 2.5-mill tax levies.
To establish another transportation system with the same services as TARTA would cost about $400,000 and require a new levy to be approved by Rossford voters.
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 residents, Citizens Choice, 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.
At Monday’s city council meeting, Council member Caroline Zuchowski Eckel said she supports TARTA membership.
“That’s what makes us a good community because we take care of each other,” she said.
Mrs. Eckel is concerned that a lack of public transit will “leave people stranded,” and she questioned how long it would take to establish a new service.
Councilman Robert Ruse agreed, “We’d be taking a step backward.”
He noted that council researched the issue for several years before determining that TARTA provides the best service at the lowest cost.
“I think that cost [of another service] would be so much more,” he added.
Councilman Jerry Staczek differed, as he is opposed to continuing membership in TARTA because there is no end date for the service.
Several members of Citizens Choice addressed council, sharing their concerns about TARTA.
Don Montague of Rossway Avenue emphasized that the group is not against public transit, but just the “endless agreement” of TARTA membership.
He had provided a list of 26 transportation options for area residents.
Mayor MacKinnon said he and City Administrator Ed Ciecka recently called all 26 to ask four questions about each:
•Do you serve Rossford?
•How far would you drive Rossford residents?
•What is the cost to ride?
•How much lead time is needed to schedule a ride?
Many options on the list only serve specialized groups such as veterans, seniors citizens or Medicaid-eligible residents.
The cost of many options ranged from $10 to $40 per hour, plus 50 cents per mile. Others charge based on a resident’s income.
Several services are no longer operating.
Many require advance notice to schedule a ride of one day, or five to 10 days ahead, the mayor explained.
“They do not provide better service than TARTA,” he added.
Greg Ryan of Jennings Road told council that he believes the Clear View study contains errors, including ridership numbers that actually are estimates.
“There’s no accurate way to count people,” he said. “Some operators [bus drivers] just don’t punch in the figures.”
Mr. Ryan also said he does not oppose public transportation–just TARTA.
“There’s a better way–we can provide better service,” he added.
Dick Goeke of Harbor Point said he visited the bus stops and asked drivers about counting riders, but their answers did not coincide with figures in the Clear View study.
“We don’t have accurate information,” he said.
Bob Densic of Birch Drive said residents are frustrated about “the inability to control their level of service” with TARTA.
“Is it a value to the citizens of Rossford?” he asked.
Due to the wording of the TARTA issue on the ballot, voters must vote “Yes” for the city to exit the service and “No” to remain a member.
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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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