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Legal opinion places TARTA decision on November ballot
By Beth Church
A legal opinion by the Wood County prosecutor’s office has reversed an earlier decision not to allow Rossford citizens a vote on membership in TARTA.
The opinion was announced at Monday night’s Rossford City Council meeting.
Bob Densic, one of the citizens organizing the initiative, said, “We are elated to see it on the ballot–that’s where it should be.”
“We’ve always maintained that it’s up to the citizens of Rossford to decide.”
City council voted last June to remain as a member of the public transit system.
The vote was 5-2 with Councilmen Jerry Staczek and Chuck Duricek voting no, both suggesting that citizens should have the right to make the decision at the ballot box.
A group of citizens then circulated a petition, collecting more than 350 signatures, that was submitted August 6 to the Wood County Board of Elections.
The board had to verify all the signatures, and transmit the petition back to the city, which could not be done prior to the August 7 deadline for the November 2013 election.
A legal opinion from the prosecutor’s office last September directed the board not to place the issue on the ballot last November.
However, the more recent prosecutor’s opinion states that “since the petitioners filed their initiative petitions prior to the statutory end date, they have preserved the initiative vote.”
Kevin Heban, city law director, said the City of Rossford did everything it was statutorily required to do last fall when the petitions were received.
“The city proceeded as set forth in the Ohio Revised Code in a timely fashion with no delay and complied strictly with all procedural requirements,” he said. “As the Board of Elections and Wood County prosecutor determined, the City of Rossford fully complied with the Ohio Revised Code.”
Terry Burton, director of the Board of Elections, confirmed Tuesday that the TARTA decision would appear on the November 4 ballot.
“We’ll move forward to putting it on the ballot,” he said.
He acknowledged that the process is complicated by a window of time established in the Voters’ Rights Act state law, initiated by State Representative Randy Gardner.
The state law gave communities in Ohio the right to vote on entering or exiting from a public transit system– but the vote was to have taken place by the end of 2013.
Mr. Burton said the board is not charged with deciding whether the issue as decided by voters is legally valid.
“That will be determined by a court somewhere,” he added.
Steve Atkinson, director of marketing for TARTA, said Tuesday that he had yet to see the legal opinion.
“We hope Rossford remains a member of TARTA for the importance of having transportation options for its citizens as well as others in the region for access to jobs, education, medical, shopping, and recreational opportunities,” 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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