None of the area public officials contacted by this newspaper said they had been contacted for input into a possible lease of the Ohio Turnpike.
That’s in spite of the fact some state officials said they would be contacted, and that 100 meetings on turnpike privitization have been held.
John Kasich, Ohio governor, has proposed leasing the turnpike as a way to raise cash for highway projects statewide. He has promised the bulk of the money will go for projects in northern Ohio.
Steve Faulkner, Ohio Department of Transportation press secretary, said there have been about 100 meetings in which the turnpike has been discussed.
Several mayors were contacted by this newspaper on Monday. All said they have not been contacted directly by KPMG, an Austin, Texas-based consulting firm hired to study the feasibility of raising money off of the turnpike. State officials refer to the study as an “opportunity analysis.”
There was a meeting in Wauseon on Tuesday, Jan. 31, between area officials and Wray, before the KPMG study began.
Attendance at the meeting was tightly controlled so no political entity had more than half of its elected offi- cials present.
If more than half of any one body attended, a quorum would have been present, and state law would require the meeting be open to the public.
A Bryan Times newspaper reporter was escorted from the meeting.
Paul Barnaby, Fulton County commissioner, said during the meeting, state offi cials asked what they (state officials) could do to help promote a lease of the turnpike.
Some communities in the area have passed resolutions opposing a turnpike lease.
Ruth Marlatt, Fayette mayor, said she had attended a couple of meetings about the turnpike. Fayette village council passed legislation stating it was “totally against” leasing the turnpike.
Jim Wyse, Archbold mayor, said KPMG had not contacted him, and to the best of his knowledge, no one in village government had been.
Dan Miller, Delta mayor, said he had not been contacted directly, nor had anyone in Delta village government. He did attend the Wauseon meeting and a Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) transportation summit.
Delta village council passed a resolution, 5-1, opposing any change in the status quo, he said.
Gary Loar, mayor of Metamora, said KPMG had not contacted him.
Dan Hughes, mayor of Stryker, said he had not been contacted, and no one in Stryker government had been.
“We haven’t made an offi- cial resolution or statement per se, but as an administration, we would not be in favor of leasing or selling the turnpike,” he said.
Doug Shaw, mayor of Wauseon, said he did not recall being contacted for his, or the city’s, opinion on the turnpike issue. He did “sit through” meetings with ODOT and the turnpike.
Wauseon has not taken a stand on the turnpike question, he said.
Vond Hall, Fulton County administrator, said none of the commissioners were contacted for input.
In February 2011, the commissioners went on record as “strongly opposing” a lease of the turnpike.
Rick Hodges, executive director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, said during the OTC’s Monday, Oct. 15 meeting, ODOT officials gave a summary of the progess KPMG had made.
Hodges, an Archbold High School graduate and former state representative, said the KPMG study is focusing on three options:
•Doing nothing. The Commission continues to operate the toll road, and revenue generated by the toll road goes back into the road.
•Leasing the turnpike. In return for cash payments spread over time, a private, for-profit group or corporation would operate the turnpike, taking profits after making lease payments and paying for repair and maintenance.
•Using the turnpike and the approximately $250 million per year it generates as collateral for selling bonds.
Selling bonds against the turnpike would require some changes in Ohio law.
Hodges and Faulkner said some of the changes might include combining the Turnpike Commission and ODOT in some form.
The Commission has been a stand-alone entity since the turnpike was conceived in the early 1950s.
Hodges, Faulkner, and Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Kasich, said the presentation Monday was a status update and that the KPMG study is not complete.
Hodges said the consulting firm’s final recommendations will be ready in the near future, followed by a proposal from Kasich.
But the Columbus Dispatch, in a story that appeared Friday, Oct. 5, states that Kasich and Jerry Wray, ODOT director, said the study was finished.
Nichols later said no finished report or document had been turned over, but the Kasich administration and KPMG had shared ideas about what was possible.
An Internet political blog reported Monday that turnpike tolls will go up, and two turnpike maintenance facilities will close.
Hodges said there are no plans to raise tolls or close maintenance facilities, and there won’t be for the foreseeable future.
However, slides from the presentation obtained by the Archbold Buckeye show currently there are eight “maintenance compounds.” Under a public option (bonds) and a public-private option (lease), the KPMG analysis projects six compounds.
Hodges said the KPMG study is very complex and includes 50 different financial models running until 2062, the longest period a possible lease could last.