The Ohio School Facilities Commission approved a template grant agreement Thursday for the upcoming award of grants for high-performing charter schools.
Created in biennial budget bill HB64 (R. Smith), the grant program can reimburse eligible schools for projects that increase seats in effective schools, serve unmet needs and show innovation. The commission previously approved guidelines governing the grant program.
Jeff Westhoven, chief of facility and program services for the commission, said staff used a template developed for cultural facilities projects two years ago as a starting point.
The program requires a 50 percent local match and a covenant to ensure buildings constructed or modified under the program must be dedicated to education purposes for at least 10 years following completion of the project. The template agreement spells out potential remedies for cases in which a school breaks that covenant, such as by becoming insolvent.
Westhoven said he anticipates applications opening for a 90-day period starting some time in March, with final approval of grants by the Controlling Board around October or November.
Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) asked what power the commission would have to encourage a building owner to find a new tenant quickly if the original school moved or closed. Westhoven said it would be in the business interest of the owner to secure a new school as a tenant, because the covenant would restrict leasing the building to anyone else. Ramos responded by noting gas stations and grocery stores will sometimes move without breaking their leases to ensure competitors can’t occupy their former premises. “Capitalism can move both ways. Something to consider,” he said.
During his report, the new executive director of the OSFC and Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), David Williamson, said the commissions have begun a strategic planning process. Division chiefs identified a total of 158 tasks needed to achieve future goals and improve the level of service provided by the commissions, then staff worked to align that to a plan across three budget cycles. The plan is still being finalized, he said.
Julian Castro, U.S. Housing and Urban Development secretary, said he chose Columbus, Ohio to make a national announcement Thursday because of its exemplary development in the push for affordable housing.
Castro announced the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is lowering insurance rates it charges on mortgages for multifamily rental housing properties, effective April 1, 2016. Speaking Thursday at the recently completed Poindexter Place senior housing development on Columbus’ Near East Side, Castro said the rates are being lowered nationally to incentivize more affordable housing development, preserve existing housing units, and encourage energy-efficient homes.
“We chose Columbus because this is a fantastic community that’s being developed, and it’s a good example of all of the pieces of what we do coming together, with the Choice Neighborhood initiative, as well as multifamily development,” Castro said Columbus received nearly $30 million to revitalize the Poindexter Village through HUD’s Choice Neighborhood grant program in 2014.
“At its essence, what we’re doing today is a case of ‘less is more,'” Castro said. “Less borrowing costs mean more capital to rehabilitate affordable housing, more investment in energy-efficient upgrades that benefit more people and our environment, more construction and rehabilitation projects which will spark economic activity across the board in communities throughout the United States, and including here in Columbus.
“And as important as anything, it means that more Americans will have a safe, decent place to call home.”
Castro said the multifamily rate reductions “will allow affordable rental projects to support approximately 4 percent more debt. We estimate that this will help rehabilitate nearly 40,000 units over the next three years. Developers can also use these dollars to build more housing or even to cut existing rent for families. They can also increase energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
The new insurance rates include three housing categories: “Broadly Affordable” housing, where at least 90 percent of units are under Section 8 or the Low Income Housing Tax Credit; mixed-income properties, including a partial percentage of affordable housing; and energy-efficient properties.
Julie DeGraaf Velasquez, senior vice president of McCormack Baron Salazar, the site developer of Poindexter Village, said Thursday the secretary’s announcement “means that we’ll be able to stretch our first mortgage financing even further, allowing us to serve more families at a time of limited resources and growing need for affordable and sustainable housing.”
Castro also said that HUD has a “strong role” to play in President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
“This is our way of both trying to spur more preservation of affordable units and create more, and then also incentivize the private sector to go green,” he said.
HUD estimates almost 50 percent of renter households spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing in 2014, with more than a quarter of renters spending half their income on a place to live.
“No matter where I go, what I hear from folks is that they’re having to spend more money on the rent, and that folks have a problem oftentimes finding something that is affordable,” Castro said. “That means more people are spending a lot more of their budget on the rent than they ought to be; they’re doubling up, they’re not enjoying as good a quality of life as they could because the rents are so high.”
He said the new rates are good policy and also helpful for FHA business, during a time the housing administration has a strong multifamily portfolio. He projected continued generation of positive returns to the federal government. The rate reduction will give all stakeholders more chances to work together and invest in development that welcomes families of all income levels, he said.
Also in attendance, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said affordable housing is “critical” to stabilizing and improving quality of life in neighborhoods. He noted in his tenure, he will be primarily focused on the Near East Side and South Side of the capital city, as well as Linden and The Hilltop neighborhoods. He said the rate reductions will have a large impact on Columbus, and that Ohio should be a part of HUD’s announced energy-efficient housing plans.
“We need to be assuming a leadership role in helping to make sure that safe, affordable housing isn’t just necessarily having a roof over your head but [about] the sustainability involved with it, particularly as energy prices continue to go up,” Ginther told Hannah.
Castro also made note of his time as mayor of San Antonio, TX.
“As a former mayor, I know that you need a city that works and is affordable for everybody to have a good quality of life, so it only makes sense to incentivize affordable housing development.”
The Ohio Architects Board is sponsoring HB243, which has been endorsed by AIA Ohio and would modify Board authority to revise the types of activities that qualify for continuing education credits. The bill passed the House unanimously December 8 and now will be considered by the Senate. Although the Board has no plans for immediate changes to its CE requirements, it believes that HB 243 is needed to clarify the issue in light of the Legislative Service Commission’s contention that the Landscape Architects Board, which operates under identical statutory authority, didn’t have the ability to change the types of activities that qualify for CE.
David Williamson, superintendent of the Division of Industrial Compliance at the Ohio Department of Commerce, will take over next week as executive director of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) and its subsidiary agency, the Ohio School Facilities Commission.
The OFCC voted 3-0 Wednesday to appoint Williamson to the job, effective Nov. 8, at a salary of $115,000 per year, following an executive session to discuss personnel matters. Budget Director Tim Keen, who chairs the commission and led the search process, said he was impressed by Williamson’s knowledge of state government and organizational leadership.
Williamson has had two stints as superintendent of the division, during the Kasich administration and from 1999 to 2007 in the Taft administration. He previously served as executive director of the Board of Cosmetology and retired as a colonel from the U.S. Air Force after 28 years of service.
The work of Williamson’s division at the Department of Commerce is related to that of the facilities commission, as it oversees building codes and construction industry licensing.
Keen and his fellow cabinet officers on the commission — Administrative Services Director Robert Blair and Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr — offered gratitude to David Chovan, a senior staff member who has served as interim executive director following the October 2014 retirement of former Executive Director Richard Hickman. They also thanked the rest of the staff for their efforts during the transition.
Kent State University’s (KSU) May 4 Visitors Center has been selected by the International Society for Landscape, Place and Material Culture (ISLPMC) to receive its Historic Preservation Certificate of Merit. This award is given yearly to select individuals and organizations engaged in activities designed to preserve historical sites and raise public awareness of preservation efforts.
The award was presented to the center’s director, Mindy Farmer, at the society’s 2015 conference in North Canton. Farmer attributes the award selection to the May 4 Visitors Center’s passion for preservation of the physical site, as well as its focus on educating the public about the events of May 4 and their lasting impact.
“This award acknowledges both our proficiency in interpreting a difficult, confusing event and our commitment to preserving the site and its history,” Farmer said. “May 4, 1970, was a traumatic day for this campus, the nation and the world. Yet, the May 4 Visitors Center is a place of healing. With great care, we provide an honest account of an event that might be easier to ignore and we talk openly about tough topics that might be easier to avoid.”
Farmer described the honor as humbling.
The May 4 Visitors Center offers an educational walking tour to anyone interested in learning more about the historical significance of the May 4 events. The tour includes stops at locations where key moments took place. “This blending of physical space with educational materials is part of what makes the center such a unique and memorable experience,” the center said in a release.
Farmer cites the center’s commitment to education as an important aspect of its success.
“We are committed to the academic study of May 4, 1970, and its legacy so that every time a student, alumnus or visitor is asked about that fateful day, they have a thoughtful, evidence-based answer,” Farmer said. “In this way, the center serves as a powerful reminder that Kent State University is willing to learn from the past, however difficult, to shape the future.”
More information about Kent State’s May 4 Visitors Center can be found online at www.kent.edu/may4.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission voted Thursday to approve $193 million in state funding toward nine projects totaling nearly $500 million in construction work.
Contingent on Controlling Board approval, the state funding will be combined with $303 million in local-share money from the nine participating districts, who must raise their local amount within 13 months.
The commission’s action provides funding for projects in the following districts: Ayersville Local, Champion Local, Chillicothe City, Cuyahoga Falls City, Firelands Local, Lake Local, Poland Local, Reading Community City and Southwest Local.
“This is a critical step in ensuring that our children are in new or renovated facilities that help support academic achievement,” said OSFC Executive Director David Chovan in a statement. “There is also a significant economic impact attached to today’s commission action – the construction work generated by this project could translate into both job opportunities for local residents and increased purchases of goods and services from local businesses.”
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) has announced final plans for its annual construction conferences.
The one-day events, conducted on four separate days at regional locations around the state, bring together the entire construction community, including public owners, architects and engineers, construction managers, contractors, consultants, and specialty service providers. The program is designed not only to provide information on the process for OFCC-managed programs but also practical advice on the various aspects of construction and construction management.
The conferences’ morning sessions will include two in-depth case studies, presented by the actual project teams, that look at two popular project delivery methods: design-build and construction manager at risk. The panels will focus on selecting an effective team, developing designs that work, and implementing construction successfully using these popular delivery models.
Afternoon breakout sessions will focus on practical advice for selecting design and construction firms, using electronic bidding, and how to develop design criteria that work for the success of the project, among others.
Continuing education credits have been submitted and are pending approval from the American Institute of Architects. Local professional development credit is available for K-12 educators.
Sessions, which all run from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be held as follows:
– Wednesday, July 22, in Independence (Cleveland).
– Tuesday, July 28, and Wednesday, Aug. 26, in Columbus.
– Thursday, Aug. 20, in Cincinnati.
Cost to attend is $65 per person.
More information and registration links can be found at http://ofcc.ohio.gov/MediaCenter/TrainingOutreach/OFCCConference.aspx
Preservation Ohio announced Thursday 13 properties that face risk of demolition, dilapidation or “uncertain futures,” continuing the group’s compilation of threatened historic sites for the 22nd year.
“These properties could be gone forever if not recognized for the part they play in maintaining their community’s historic fiber,” said Marian Vance, the nonprofit’s president, noting the sites need statewide recognition.
Age, amount of deterioration, local groups invested in preservation, and a building’s or site’s impact on the surrounding community contribute to generating the list. Preservation Ohio receives nominations from citizens and organization, with its board of trustees making the final decisions.
Bob Johnson, chairman of a group that aims to restore the Stone Train Depot in Ashtabula, said the area wants to see Amtrak use the 19th century station as a working site, bringing a “new era” of tourism to a once flourishing manufacturing region. He says Ashtabula is a great spot for high-speed rail service between Erie, PA, and Pittsburgh.
Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) said as a retired history teacher, he wants to “get on board” to preserve the depot, which is located near the disaster site of one of the deadliest train wrecks in the United States.
Also making the list is the Cedar Bank earthworks, a little-studied Native American earthwork from Adena culture not preserved as part of a park. Located north of Chillicothe in Ross County, its rare embankment wall is nearly two millennia old.
Two homes on the Ohio Wesleyan University campus in Delaware currently used for student housing together are one of the endangered sites, as they are slated to be razed by the university to make room for newer housing.
She said after receiving recognition through the group’s list, the Westcott House, a Springfield house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was restored. Other successes include the Unionville Tavern in Madison, once part of the Underground Railroad, and the Columbus Athenaeum, a Masonic Temple.
In 2014, three of the 11 properties on the list were saved and one lost. The organization continues to monitor the remaining sites.
The 2015 List of Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites includes:
-East Liberty Schoolhouse, Akron.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors on April 24 approved a plan to allow private employers to pay for their annual workers’ compensation premiums in two, four, six or 12 installments as part of its move to a new prospective billing system.
Under the new system, businesses will be billed prior to receiving coverage instead of the previous system of billing employers after they have received coverage. The signing of 130-HB493 (Sears-Henne) allowed for the transition to the new system.
“Prospective billing is not only the standard across the insurance industry, it will bring a number of benefits to Ohio employers, including the $1.2 billion in premiums BWC will pay on their behalf as we make the transition,” BWC Administrator Steve Buehrer said. “We’re pleased to offer more flexibility as part of our ongoing efforts to modernize our operations and provide the quality service that Ohio employers expect.”
Businesses can expect to receive their first notice of estimated annual premium in early June for the 2015 policy year, according to a news release from BWC.
“Beginning July 1, businesses will pay an estimated premium for the upcoming coverage year and undergo a payroll ‘true-up’ process after the policy year ends to ensure the proper premium was paid,” BWC said. “As part of the previously announced $1.2 billion premium credit to ease transition costs for employers, BWC will pay businesses’ previous six months coverage, or final payroll report, under the old system, as well as one-sixth of the policy year 2015 premium due. Therefore, their first payment under prospective billing won’t be due until Aug. 31.”
In addition to payment flexibility, the switch to prospective billing is expected to provide a number of benefits to Ohio employers, according to an executive summary of the plan. Those include an overall base rate reduction of 2 percent for private employers and 4 percent for public employers, as well as an increased ability for BWC to detect employer non-compliance and fraud.
Buehrer said BWC’s “strategic direction” staff has been working to educate employers on the upcoming changes, noting 1,898 attendees representing 1,502 distinct employers have signed up for training.
“This is a huge accomplishment,” he said. “Furthermore, our staff has conducted our first employer seminar in Spanish to a group of Spanish-speaking employers. We are excited to be reaching out to as many employer as possible, and even going the extra mile to speak to them in their own language when we can.”
Also discussed at the meeting was a new initiative to provide workers’ compensation coverage for Ohio employers who have employees temporarily or regularly working outside the state. Kendra DePaul, special assistant to Buehrer, explained that BWC’s extraterritorial coverage generally covers claims of Ohio employees temporarily working out of state as long as the claim is filed in Ohio, but cannot cover claims filed in other states.
“For example, if I was going to a conference up and Michigan, and got in car accident in Michigan, as long as filed the claim back in Ohio, there would be no issue. BWC would process like any other claim,” DePaul said. “If I filed that claim in Michigan, BWC can’t respond to it, they’re not a licensed insurer there, so Michigan would not recognize BWC’s coverage in that state.
“That can lead to some issues for employers,” she continued. “If an employee files a claim in another state, and the employer doesn’t have coverage there, they’re considered uninsured for the purposes of workers’ comp by that state. That can lead to some great fines and penalties and generally they have to pay the claim dollar-for-dollar. So it’s an exposure risk for the employer.”
She said the plan is to offer two types of coverage: limited other states’ coverage, for Ohio employers who have employees temporarily working outside the state; and other states’ coverage, for Ohio employers who have regular or full-time employees working outside the state.
She said the new plan will include the following components:
– Employer would apply directly to BWC.
– BWC would determine eligibility by the following criteria: the employer must be in good standing; have an experience modifier under two; and have 80 percent of its payroll in Ohio.
– Vendor will issue a policy to cover out-of-state exposures.
– Vendor will respond to any claims filed out-of-state.
She said more details would be forthcoming after BWC finds a vendor to respond to the RFP, which is expected to be issued Tuesday, April 28.
Board Chairman Nicholas Zuk said this is an important issue to address, as it was the “No. 1 question” at recent board forums.
“This will allow our employers to bid on jobs out-of-state that they are now prohibited from bidding on because they don’t have group coverage,” Zuk said.
Ohio’s school construction program has reached the 200 mark for facilities earning certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) said Wednesday that Violet Elementary in Pickerington schools is the 200th such facility.
According to the commission, Ohio’s certified schools are on average 33 percent more efficient in energy usage and 37 percent more efficient in water usage. “All of the OSFC projects encourage the use of products and components that are at least partially recycled and are recovered or manufactured within a 500-mile radius of the project,” OSFC stated.
In addition to the 200 certified schools, 140 are registered with LEED, meaning they are at some stage of the design, construction or review process, according to the commission. Ohio has required each project design to seek at least a LEED Silver certification since 2007. Three schools in Ohio have attained the highest certification, Platinum, said OSFC.
“These 200 projects, which represent a commitment to both our school children and the future of our environment, are the direct result of innovative team work from architects, construction managers, trade contractors, and our project partners, the local school districts. I commend them for their accomplishments,” OSFC Interim Executive Director David Chovan said in a statement.
“On behalf of the entire USGBC community, I commend the state of Ohio for certifying its 200th school under the LEED green building rating system,” Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council, said in a statement. “This achievement demonstrates determination and commitment to create a healthy, sustainable environment for all of Ohio’s children. Schools are the centers of their communities and the positive impact these LEED-certified schools will have on the state and its children will be felt for years to come.”