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NOTA back on the ballot in Addison

August 13, 2014 - The ballot language will be exactly the same, but the consequences will be completely different if Addison voters say 'no' a second time to providing additional funding for the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA).

"I, myself, think it's an important enough thing to bring back (to the voters)," said Addison Supervisor Bruce Pearson, who also chairs the NOTA board. "I think the people should now understand that they have the choice to keep NOTA or not keep NOTA (in Addison). That's basically what this is saying."

At a special meeting Monday, the Addison Township Board voted 5-0 to place a failed five-year, 0.25-mill property tax request for NOTA back on the ballot in the Nov. 4 general election.

NOTA's tax request failed 557 to 531 in Addison, but was approved in the agency's other two communities, Oxford and Orion townships.

"The other two townships did approve it and they're going to move on with or without us," Pearson said. "If we do not contribute our share, then they will consider us opted out."

That was the consensus of the NOTA board at a special meeting it held on Friday, Aug. 8 to discuss the Addison situation (see related story below).

"If we don't put it (back) on the ballot, we're out of NOTA," Pearson told the board.

By putting the millage back on the ballot, Pearson said Addison would at least be giving its voters the chance to make the final decision rather than having it made for them.

"Now, it's a referendum – do we want to stay in NOTA or do we want to opt out of NOTA," he said. "That's where we're at now."

"Normally, I would not put something like this back on the ballot," Pearson noted. "(But) the dynamics of the whole situation have changed now."

He explained the Aug. 5 vote was about asking taxpayers in all three townships to either make up for the loss of $425,000 per year in federal and state funding that NOTA will experience beginning next year or have the number of bus routes cut from 13 to 7 per day Monday through Friday.

"The services for NOTA in all three townships would have been diminished," Pearson said.

But given the millage passed in Oxford and Orion, those communities will be contributing their full share to NOTA and continuing to receive the same level of service.

Addison's rejection of the millage means it will not, as of right now, be contributing the additional $70,000 in revenue the new tax would have generated for NOTA in that township.

If Addison voters do not approve the millage in November so the community can contribute its $70,000, the community will no longer receive NOTA services.

"That's what this vote is about now," Pearson said.

Trustee Linda Gierak wondered how voters are going to know this millage question is now about Addison staying in or opting out of NOTA when it doesn't expressly state that fact in the ballot language.

"It doesn't say that if you don't (approve it), there's going to be no NOTA (in Addison)," she said.

Pearson said it's going to be up to him to "educate" voters and explain to them "this is a do-or-die situation" through various means ranging from newspaper articles to speeches.

"We have no other (public transportation) option in Addison Township to get our seniors and our disabled people to where they need to be," Pearson said. "We have no taxi service out here."

Trustee Ed Brakefield noted that if NOTA dropped Addison, the agency would lose the $16,299 in funding it currently receives from the township.

"That's a big step, a big loss," he said.

But, as Gierak pointed out, NOTA would no longer incur any expenses related to transporting Addison residents, so that funding loss would be offset by the savings.

Last year, NOTA gave 2,189 rides to Addison residents.

Pearson noted "it probably costs more to transport somebody from Addison Township" as opposed to the other two townships because "we're the farthest away from anything."

"When the NOTA buses do come out here, it's . . . to pick someone up and take them into town to either go shopping or to the doctor," he said. "I would suggest that the (bus) routes in Oxford and Orion are probably of less miles because that's where the activity is and that's where the people are."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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