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Building Code Bill Gets Hearing (SB 43)

The Senate Local Government, Public Safety & Veterans Affairs Committee took testimony, March 7 regarding SB43 which would enable limited home rule townships to adopt building codes regardless of any similar codes adopted by the county in which the township resides.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) said his proposal would let residents and businesses in certain limited home rule townships obtain building permits at the township level, which would be more convenient than seeking permits from county departments.

He said the change was requested by Blendon Township, which would like to adopt its own codes.

He said that township has a commercial building department because Franklin County doesn’t have one, but is unable to open a residential building department because the county does have a residential operation.

Having both departments, he said, would make the process more efficient because Ohioans would only have to visit one jurisdiction to address all their permit needs. The change, he added, would allow builders to work with a single inspector on all projects.

Sen. Bacon told Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) that the bill would not address any local zoning restrictions.

Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) questioned whether counties and townships could come to different decisions on permit applications. Sen. Bacon said the codes would be similar, but acknowledged that different people could have different views on code interpretation.

The sponsor also told Sen. Sykes that there is nothing in the bill that lets counties object to qualifying townships creating their own departments.

Responding to Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Loveland), Sen. Bacon said the proposed structure is similar to the process that many cities already follow, in which the county is not involved.

Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Adena) said he has experience in residential and commercial construction, and raised concerns that the shift could “muddy the waters” in terms what governmental entity is responsible for permitting. “This could become an extreme nightmare if we make it more convoluted than it already is,” he said.

Sen. Bacon said it is his goal that the bill makes the process go more smoothly, not create confusion. “We’re changing nothing about the process,” he added, noting that the bill only creates new township authority.

Sen. Sykes said he wanted to avoid potential conflicts between counties and townships, and asked why the bill declares that township codes will prevail.

Sen. Bacon said that issue would be reviewed.

Budget Bill Would Mitigate Registration Board Anti-Trust Vulnerabilities

Ohio’s Budget Bill (HB49) contains provisions that address the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision against the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners that ruled they violated federal antitrust laws because members of the state’s dental board were active participants in the profession they regulated.

Due to this Supreme Court ruling, certain vulnerabilities have been identified in Ohio’s current licensing system. HB49 proposes the creation of a third-party review process by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), in which the DAS would review any action taken by or on behalf of a board that could be subject to antitrust laws. Not only would this protect boards from costly legal action for antitrust-related concerns, it would also prevent unnecessary delays in business decisions the boards make and promote better coordination and efficiency within the licensing boards structure.

Following are the details governing DAS Antitrust review:

  • Requires the Director of Administrative Services to review and approve or disapprove actions or proposed actions that have been referred to the Director and that may have antitrust implications taken by boards and commissions.
  • Voids an action or proposed action disapproved by the Director.
  • Allows a board or commission that has taken or proposes to take an action, person who is affected or is likely to be affected by an action taken or proposed to be taken by a board or commission, or a person granted a stay in court under the bill to refer an action for review by the Director.
  • Allows a party adversely affected by the Director’s approval or disapproval to appeal to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.
  • Requires a person to obtain a determination from the Director before pursuing a court action for a violation of antitrust laws and grants the state, a board or commission, or a member of a board or commission the right to request a stay of antitrust proceedings pending in a court that lasts until the Director approves or disapproves the action.
  • Requires the Director to adopt rules under the Administrative Procedure Act to implement and administer the bill’s review provisions.

Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST Webinars

Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST, with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, is offering design and construction webinars this spring in addition to their in-person training seminars.  Click the links below for information on how to register.

April 12, 2017, 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM CT – Dwelling Unit Requirements

April 26, 2017, 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM CT – Accessible Routes

May 10, 2017, 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM CT – Accessible Public and Common Use Areas

June 14, 2017, 12:30 PM to 2:00 PM CT – Common Design and Construction Violations and Solutions

Proposal To Sunset School Facilities Commission Won’t Impact Projects, Director Says

Eliminating the Ohio School Facilities Commission moniker would alleviate confusion and improve efficiency, Executive Director David Williamson told a House subcommittee Thursday.

The commission currently operates inside the Facilities Construction Commission, of which Mr. Williamson also serves as the executive director.

He said the biennial budget (HB 49) proposal to sunset OSFC wouldn’t change the school facilities funding work that’s already underway – all of which is already being completed by umbrella commission OFCC.

“The commission within a commission structure breeds confusion among stakeholder groups when trying to figure out with which commission to deal and has contributed to operational inefficiencies and costs,” Mr. Williamson told the House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee on Thursday.

He said the change will also streamline operations because both commissions currently hold back-to-back quarterly meetings attended by the same staff members and draft similar administrative rules.

“It has an additional advantage of alleviating the potential complicated legal issues that arise from having two legal entities – with confusing areas of authority – to engage in legal actions or file suit against, or on behalf of, if and when such conditions arise,” Mr. Williamson said.

Under the change, the OFCC will still consist of Office of Budget and Management and Department of Administrative Services directors as well as an appointed member of the governor’s cabinet.

Current appointees are Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria, who serves on OSFC, and Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr, who serves on OFCC.

Mr. Williamson told the subpanel that he would work with the legislature if it chooses to appoint lawmakers to serve as non-voting members on the commission.

The executive budget also expands the entities that can seek approval from OFCC to manage their own capital improvement projects that cost less than $1.5 million. They include the Department of Administrative Services, the Ohio School for the Deaf and the Ohio School for the Blind.

“The approval of this language would allow these entities to manage their small dollar projects under applicable laws and rules without the supervision or control of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission,” Mr. Williamson said. “It would bring consistency with the practices found in other state agencies.”

The commission would also be permitted under the budget bill to debar construction firms as well as specific individuals associated with those firms from seeking work on state contracts.

Mr. Williamson noted that the Department of Transportation director has such authority and the bill’s language is taken from that statute.

“Currently, if a construction firm is debarred, there is nothing that prohibits the owners of that company from simply starting a new company and then competing for work, which effectively negates the purpose of the debarment,” he said.

The governor funded the commission to the tune of $424 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and $455 million in FY 2019.

Much of those dollars will pay the debt service on K-12 and cultural facility bond projects, which are estimated at $398.3 million in FY18 and $437.9 million in FY19, Mr. Williamson said.

OFCC’s work is given life in the capital budget, which previously appropriated $716.8 million for construction projects, including $650 million that’s designated for K-12 school facilities assistance projects.

Since 2011, the commission has completed work in 78 school districts and opened 270 new or renovated school buildings, Mr. Williamson said. It has also overseen historical facilities and completed 175 state agency projects.

The commission is currently in the active planning stages with 56 school districts, four state agencies and one community college, he added.

“We are proud of the work our staff has accomplished thus far, and are eager to continue the programs and responsibilities entrusted to us by the General Assembly and administration,” Mr. Williamson said.

Bill would designate the barn as Ohio’s first official historical architectural structure

Representative Anne Gonzales has introduced a bill into the Ohio House of Representatives that would designate the barn as the official historical architectural structure of the state.

During a February 14 Hearing for HB 12 before the House State and Local Government committee, Rep. Gonzales said that the bill is the work of five students from the Westerville City Schools Gifted Education Program. These students felt strongly that the barn should be designated the official historical architectural structure of the state of Ohio. “I believe that it is important to cherish and preserve the architectural relics that are such an important part of our rural heritage,” Rep. Gonzales said. In response to Chairwoman Anielski’s inquiry, Rep. Gonzales said that the barn would be the first architectural structure categorized as a historical structure in Ohio and that the eighth grade students who approached her intend to give testimony at a later hearing.

Rep. Perales commended Rep. Gonzales for her efforts to engage students.

AIA Recognizes Record Number of Ohio Fellows

Congratulations to our Ohio Architects for being elevated to the College of Fellows! Out of 178 architects that were elevated nationally, 8 were from Ohio. They are Jack Alan Bialosky Jr. FAIA, Cleveland; Robert Bostwick, FAIA, Cleveland; David Hughes, FAIA, Cleveland; Eric Pempus, FAIA, Cleveland; Lane Joseph Beougher, FAIA, Columbus; Tim Fishking, FAIA, Columbus; David B Meleca, FAIA, Columbus; Bruce W. Sekanick, FAIA, Eastern Ohio. The 2017 Fellows will be honored at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Convention in Orlando. To read the press release and see the entire list click here.
The Ohio Valley Region was the only Region to have 100 percent of applicants elevated this year.  In addition to the eight from Ohio (the most Ohio has ever had elevated in a single year), there were two new Fellows recognized in Kentucky and one in Indiana.

Jack Alan Bialosky Jr. FAIA, Senior Principal, Bialosky, Cleveland.
Embracing a new paradigm for practice, Bialosky has empowered multiple generations of leaders, modeled the architect as a community leader, and inspired peers to reimagine their own firms, thereby transforming the profession.

Robert Bostwick, FAIA, Bostwick Design Partnership, Cleveland.
Through innovations in collaborative practice models, Bostwick is improving project delivery to achieve exceptional outcomes while advocating nationally to position architects as the most capable leaders to skillfully integrate complex teams.

David Hughes, FAIA, Professor, Kent State University.
Hughes combines his passion for architecture, African culture, travel, research, photography and teaching to introduce a paradigm of thought, that has worldwide regard, influence and impact on design, practice and education.

Eric Pempus, FAIA, Architect and Attorney, Cleveland.
Providing leadership, mentoring and specialized risk management services to the architectural profession, Pempus engages practitioners, students, the public and other construction industry stakeholders through national educational programs, ethics and research, thereby elevating the profession. 

Lane Joseph Beougher, FAIA, State Architect, Ohio.
As a public architect, Beougher exhibits exemplary leadership by advancing project delivery methods, advocating for sustainable design, integrating technology into construction processes, leading the Institute and related organizations, and service his community and profession. 

Tim Fishking, FAIA, NBBJ, Columbus.
Fishking has advanced healthcare design industry innovations, by pioneering the modular prefabrication of building systems while leading collaboration with constructors and transforming healthcare design and construction.

David B Meleca, FAIA, David B. Meleca Architects, LLC, Columbus.
Meleca has combined his unique experience of classical architecture and theology to become a national leader in the renaissance of traditional Roman Catholic Church architecture.

Bruce W. Sekanick, FAIA, Phillips Sekanick Architects, Warren.
Sekanick advances initiatives strengthens engagement and promotes mentorship though consistent commitment to advocacy and political fundraising. He continuously works to elevate the statue of architecture as a champion of the profession and he advocated for the opportunity to have all members be active participants. 

State to Appeal Court Ruling Striking Down Local Hiring Ordinance Ban

The state is planning to appeal the decision of a Cuyahoga County court that ruled 131-HB180 as unconstitutional because if violates home rule.

The city of Cleveland sued after Gov. John Kasich signed HB180 (Maag), which banned municipalities from requiring architects and contractors to hire to a certain percentage of local residents for the construction of public projects. Opponents of the law said the measures allow cities to make sure local workers are getting jobs on local construction projects, while supporters said such laws raise costs and hurt competition.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Russo sided with Cleveland this week, granting a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the law. Russo wrote that the General Assembly did not have the authority to enact the law because it only seeks to dictate the terms by which municipalities may contract for workers within their region, not provide for the comfort, health, safety and welfare of employees. He also said the law violates home rule powers. 

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson praised the decision. “For 12 years the city of Cleveland has used the Cleveland Resident Employment Law (Fannie Lewis Law) as an effective tool to both stimulate the local economy and connect Clevelanders to employment. There are billions of dollars of development happening in our city; yet special interests in Columbus are attempting to prohibit our residents from seeing a financial impact from that development. Judge Russo’s decision is right and I thank him for correcting this wrong,” he said in a statement.

Legislative Democrats who voted against the bill also praised the decision.

“The state should partner with local communities to expand economic opportunities for everyone, not attack home rule authority and restrict residents from participating in their own communities’ economic development,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron).

Added Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron), “Our constitution preserves and protects the right and responsibility of citizens to exercise self-governance in their community. The ruling in Cleveland not only upholds this fundamental tenet of American democracy in Ohio, but it also preserves the freedom of local communities to make decisions that increase economic stability and ensure equal employment opportunities for citizens.” 

State To Appeal Strike Down Local Hiring Quota Ban

A Cuyahoga County judge on Feb. 1  blocked a controversial measure banning local hiring quotas.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Russo granted the city of Cleveland’s request to permanently block the law from being enforced.

In blocking enforcement of the law, Judge Russo cited home rule authority.

“The court finds that HB180 was improperly enacted because it does not provide for the comfort, health, safety and welfare of employees; rather, HB180 seeks only to dictate the terms by which municipalities may contract for workers in construction projects within their realm,” he wrote in his ruling. “There are no protections afforded to employees under HB180, and no portion of the bill relates to the comfort, health, safety or general welfare of these contractors.”

Attorney General Mike DeWine‘s office declined to comment on the judge’s ruling, but did say an appeal is planned.

The city argued the law would override a 2003 ordinance, the Fannie Lewis law, which requires 20% of taxpayer-funded construction hours to go to city residents. The law also requires that 4% of those hours are worked by low-income residents.

Since 2013, according to the lawsuit, the law has allowed city residents to work 897,870 hours on taxpayer funded construction projects, generating more than $34 million in wages. More than 100,000 hours were worked by low-income city residents.

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OSFC’s Goals Include Automation, Reducing Project Closeout Backlog

The Ohio School Facilities Commission’s leader on Thursday laid out goals for the year, listing the automation of operations and the filling of vacant project manager roles as priorities.

All goals for the year revolve around the commission continuing to “support our growing customer list” and run as efficiently and effectively as possible, OSFC Executive Director David Williamson said.

One way to achieve those goals is to automate as many of the commission’s operations and activities as possible, freeing up staff time and making it easier to stay in communication with districts, he said. OSFC staff is currently investigating options in that regard.

Also among the 2017 focuses are implementation of the funding and policies in the next biennial budget and providing professional development opportunities to employees, he said.

Since its inception in 1997, the commission has served 380 districts, with 279 remaining eligible for funding, Mr. Williamson said. There are currently 39 projects in planning stages, 49 in design and 70 in construction.

Closing out projects is an area where the commission can improve this year and into the future, he said. There is currently a backlog of about 100 projects waiting to complete the long finalization process.

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