July 31, 2014

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Oberlin wants to annex JVS; school balks

Lorain County Joint Vocational School, at the corner of state Route 58 and U.S. Route 20 in Pittsfield Township, is shown Wednesday. (CT photo by Steve Manheim.)

PITTSFIELD TWP. — The city of Oberlin wants the Lorain County Joint Vocational School to rest within the city limits.

A contract drawn in 1971, when the school was built at the corner of state Route 58 and U.S. Route 20, allows the school to tap into Oberlin’s sewage system, but it also mandates that any property that draws from the city’s sewage line must be annexed into city land. State law, however, limits annexations to property adjacent to a city and at the time of the agreement, the JVS was miles south of the city limit.

But the city over the years has annexed property southward along the sewer line, and the JVS now sits adjacent to city land. That prompted the city to seek annexation.

Should it go forward — JVS officials have asked for the issue to be put on hold — JVS employees will have to pay Oberlin’s income tax at a rate of 1.9 percent, which they now do not pay.

Oberlin City Manager Eric Norenberg said the benefits far outweigh whatever negatives are perceived.

If the school is annexed, for instance, the rates that it pays the city for water and waste water utilities could lower by as much as a third.

“We do have customers outside of city limits,” Norenberg said. “But receiving services outside of city limits means paying rates that are 50 percent higher than those paying from inside. That could mean $45,000 in savings per year, which could be half the cost of a teacher. If the school saves that money, it would only be helping them to better fulfill their mission.”

Norenberg added that annexation would mean that the JVS would have access to Oberlin fire services, which, he said, were much closer to the school than their current support in Wellington.

JVS Superintendent Glenn Faircloth, who joined the school in August, has asked for a delay while he and the JVS board get acquainted with the issues facing the school for the coming year.

“It’s a cost to our employees, and that’s the issue,” Faircloth said. “Our employees paying the Oberlin income tax is a win for Oberlin. We understand that we would save in utilities, but it’s still close to $150,000 that they might recoup from us.

“We want to make sure that we fully understand the language of the deal before we move forward,” Faircloth said.

That’s because if there is anything that the school can do to stop the annexation, it’s to be found in the 40-year-old contract between the school and city. If the city is able to move forward, as it intends, a petition must be filed by the property owner with the county commissioners.

Pittsfield Township, where the JVS is, has an agreement with Oberlin that it will not object to any annexations of properties that the city pursues.

“It’ll be an expedited annexation process,” Oberlin’s Planning and Development Director Gary Boyle said. “It’ll take a month or two to work through the process once everything is confirmed with the school.”

Contact Mark Allain at 329-7126 or mallain@chroniclet.com.