Though still lacking the go-ahead to officially pursue construction, Oberlin City Schools has taken another step toward building a new elementary school. Oberlin City Schools Board of Education officials recently entered an agreement with the Oberlin Community Benefits Coalition to hire locally for the project, which has been in the works for the past two years.
Under the resolution reached by the two groups, the School Board must hire local community residents, subcontract local, minority owned and woman-owned businesses and purchase materials and services from local suppliers.
“Oberlin Community Benefits Coalition seeks a joint written declaration of intent with Oberlin City Schools Board of Education committing both parties to use their best efforts to develop and enter into a Community Benefits Agreement pertaining to the construction of a new PK-5 facility for Oberlin City Schools,” the School Board’s resolution stated.
The decision comes after almost a year and a half of work and negotiations with OCBC. Members started working on their proposal in March 2014, and the idea was presented to the School Board in April, OCBC co-chair Arlene Dunn said in a statement to the Review.
“The first time we submitted these proposed terms was in May; at the time this was all in anticipation of the idea that the schools would be going ahead with a new construction levy,” Dunn said. “In November of 2014 they were expecting funds from the state and were to receive twenty percent of the cost of construction.”
OCBC is currently in the process of restructuring and reorganizing its goals, but Dunn said the group is excited about the recent developments in the situation. According to Dunn, the organization has struggled to reach resolutions with local construction projects. In the past, OCBC has made similar attempts to sign community benefits agreements when working with the College and the City.
The Board of Education’s decision to pass a resolution to hire locally was unanimous.
“[The agreement] is a great opportunity for our community and the school system to collaborate together on the new school project,”
Superintendent of Schools David Hall said. Board members were unavailable for comment. If the school is built, the local hires will receive union-determined wages, training and mentoring in efforts to build the local workforce.
“The Board was really receptive to the idea before the funding got pulled. The state money got pulled, and so the Board decided not to put the [construction] levy with the November ballot. Everything got put on hold for a while,” Dunn said.
While the Board appreciated the idea of hiring locally, they could not go on with the construction of the school because they lost funding they were to receive from the state. The construction levy would have been the key to breaking ground on the new school.
“They passed this resolution. It shows their intent, but if you look at the very bottom term, they’re not going to implement this if it will cause a reduction in funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Committee,” said Dunn.
The discussion about the construction of the new school has been ongoing, but it remains unclear when the final decision will be made.
According to the resolution, “The parties agree that no provision of the Community Benefits Agreement shall be implemented if the implementation of such provision will cause a reduction in funding for the project from the Ohio Facilities Construction Committee.”
“For [OCBC], this means that the schools have good intentions, but they may not be able to carry them out,” said Dunn, but the sanctions don’t stop there, because “since the election five years ago, the OFCC has essentially banned the use of the use of community benefit coalitions.”
The OFCC, in order to prevent setbacks and cost increases, would rather outsource work; by banning the usage of community benefit coalitions, they have successfully prevented the intervention of local residents in their projects.
Dunn said that OCBC has previously tried to help President Marvin Krislov work with Ministers Lester Allen and Professor A.G. Miller to hire locally for the College’s construction projects and other employment opportunities.
“They were told that for construction projects in particular that it was important for them to be working with the unions and that the trade unions are the key to deciding who gets hired.”