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City Council gets Phase 3 of school’s $90 million building project

By Jeff Gallatin

North Olmsted

School and city officials are taking steps to continue moving ahead on the North Olmsted School District’s $90 million capital improvements plan.

On April 25, North Olmsted City Council’s building, zoning and development committee sent, with no recommendation, plans for Phase 3 of the capital improvements plan to the full council for consideration at its regular meeting last night.

The lack of a recommendation came about because the committee had a 1-1 tie vote. Committee Vice Chairman Dan Rahm voted for the plan, while member Angela Williamson voted against it. There was no third vote to break the tie because committee chairman Paul Schumann owns property next to the school project, prompting city law Director Michael Gareau Jr. to recommend Schumann to recuse himself from running and participating in the meetings on the subject, which Schumann has.

In voting no, Williamson has expressed concern in the meetings about whether the district and project officials are taking care of problems residents living near the project are experiencing as a result of work on the new sixth- through 12th-grade school. At the April 25 meeting, some residents again expressed concern about fencing and whether there would be sufficient greenery to screen their properties from the work. Another said the work is kicking up dirt onto homes near the work.

“I’m concerned that we’re not meeting the needs or addressing the concerns of the residents in this,” she said.

Rahm said afterwards he voted for the plan because city planning and development Director Kim Wenger and the school officials had addressed some of the issues and concerns that were expressed by residents at the first committee meeting. He added, “After two committee meetings on this issue, I thought it was in the best interest of the city as a whole to move the issue to full council for a vote.”

A longtime teacher and current school administrator in Lorain County, Rahm noted he has been involved in school construction projects before.

“I know that it is a complex process, but I am confident that the schools will continue to work with residents, council and the community as a whole to address any concerns throughout the construction process. When the construction is completed, and we have a state-of-the-art 6-12 campus, it will be great for our city and most importantly for our kids,” he said.

North Olmsted City Council President Nicole Dailey Jones said council held another meeting in the BZD committee to ensure that the residents who have property abutting the middle school/high school project were heard on their issues.

“The city went back to the school district to negotiate additional landscaping in those areas,” she said. “The Phase 1 and Phase 2 parts of this massive project were approved many months ago and as such, the council does not have authority to renegotiate those terms. The council remains vigilant on watching this community project on behalf of all residents. After years of watching this project come to fruition, I believe it is a sound project that will be extremely beneficial to our community as a whole.”

School Superintendent Mike Zalar said after the April 25 meeting getting the Phase 3 permit proposal out of the BZD committee and onto the full City Council is a big relief.

“Residents have been given the opportunity to voice their concerns throughout the entire approval process,” he said. “The district design team has used this feedback to modify the plan in numerous areas and to accommodate individual preferences where practical. The campus proposal is an excellent design. The architects and planners have worked hard to create a plan that leverages the positive attributes of the site and resolves the most challenging site-related issues for the betterment of the community. I am hopeful that the full council will appreciate the importance of keeping the project moving forward so we can stay on-time and on-budget. We are quickly approaching the summer months and there is much work that needs to take place if we are to maintain our project schedule. We can’t bid the work and order the materials until we have a permit in hand. It is critically important that City Council approves the proposal so we can have the permit necessary to begin work on this part of the site.

“I appreciate that some council members want to try to meet the individual wants and desires of each person who lives next to the school campus,” he said. “However, a project of this scope and scale makes that impossible. I am reminded of some very sage advice that I received when I began my work as a superintendent. While they couldn’t tell me what to do to be successful, there was one sure way to fail – try to please everyone. I have found this to be true in my role as a public leader in the schools and community. The biggest threat to this project is trying to please every individual to the detriment of greater community.”

 

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