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UPDATED: Dexter Village Postpones Vote to Join Regional Transit Authority

Council trustees say the ambiguity of a proposed millage to cover a 5-year transportation plan is a concern for the village.

The Dexter Village Council voted unanimously Monday to postpone a decision to join a countywide transit authority known as The Washtenaw Ride.

The authority, which plans to expand public transportation throughout the county during the next five years, formally established its Articles of Incorporation on Oct. 3, launching a 30-day period in which local units of government could choose to opt out of participating.

Prior to the vote, Trustee Joe Semifero said he was concerned about joining the authority without first knowing what the cost would be to taxpayers. Previously the AATA stated that member municipalities could pay up to 0.584 mills each year for the five-year period if approved by voters. For a $200,000 home, that equates to an additional $58 per year.

That number, however, relies on total taxable property value in the county, and with 15 townships already voting to opt out, Semifero argued the millage rate could rise dramatically.

"I would prefer to wait until we know what Scio and Pittsfield decide," he said. "They have enough taxable value to keep the number closer to the .584 mills that was originally proposed."

Semifero asked the AATA to provide a cost estimate if other townships vote to opt out. Currently the City of Chelsea, City of Ypsilanti, City of Ann Arbor, Scio Township, Pittsfield Township, City of Milan, and the Village of Manchester are undecided.

"If you can't provide an estimate of the cost, it fosters a sense of mistrust," he said. "Give it your best shot. The worst thing we can do as a board is to agree to an unknown. Nobody approves an unknown."

Of the reasons cited by the 15 township boards that opted out of the authority, the chief concern was joining the AATA without residential approval.

Mary Stasiak, manager of community relations for the AATA said the transportation authority can not provide a cost estimate until it knows how many municipalities are participating in the program.

"The participating groups will have to decide the level of service that makes sense for their individual community. Once that is determined, we can crunch the numbers and determine the cost," she said. "Maybe Dexter Village doesn't want seven or eight commuter trips to Ann Arbor every day. That is a decision members have to make."

Stasiak said municipalities that do not participate in the regional transportation authority will not be eligible for additional public transportation service. In Dexter's case, however, a no vote will not affect the current level of service provided by the AATA's Washtenaw Area Value Express, which already covers the Dexter/Chelsea area.

Muncipalities that opt out of the regional transit authority can also petition to join at any time during the next five years, Stasiak said.

The AATA extended the opt out period through December. The village council is expected to pass a resolution at its meeting on Nov. 12.

Barbara Read October 23, 2012 at 03:17 PM
It's my understanding that opting in means the voters will get to choose in an election, and opting out means the choice is made for them. Correct me if I've misunderstood. If that's true, then it's a disservice for townships not to opt in. Voters should get to decide, and it seems that's the way to do it. Opting out means that the township is excluded from participation for 5 years. That's not really something the councils should be choosing for their constituents. Again, let me know if I missed something.
Barbara Read October 23, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Does opting in mean the millage is approved or approved for a vote?
Daniel Lai October 23, 2012 at 03:48 PM
The member municipalities will still have to vote on a millage, from what I understand. If you opt out, you don't participate and you don't receive more services.The main argument I'm hearing from elected officials is that they don't like the fact that they have to vote to opt in or opt out without the consent of the residents they represent.

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