Highlights: Can the regulations governing the Ohio School Facilities Commission be improved to simplify the process and produce even better results for the school districts and citizens of Ohio? A dozen citizens with varied backgrounds, all with an interest in school construction, looked at this question for several months and produced their answer in the form of a final report on August 23. Read this brief snapshot of the report to see what their 36 recommendations were, or follow our link to the whole report.
Seeking “a common-sense approach to regulation,” Governor Ted Strickland initiated a regulatory reform initiative in February of this year, shortly after taking office. Part of that initiative was “Advantage Ohio,” working groups of interested representatives appointed by the Governor from business, government, and the general public, each tasked with doing a focused review of specific current regulations. The end product would, ideally, be recommendations for streamlining the regulations while still protecting the quality of life and health for all Ohioans.
On August 23, 2007, the Advantage Ohio Working Group charged with reviewing the regulations for the Ohio School Facilities Commission made its report to the OSFC. After meeting five times and reviewing the regulations, processes, and practices governing OSFC-funded projects, the group produced 36 recommendations for change in four specific areas, most focused on the Assessment and Preconstruction Process.
The Working Group had 12 members (listed at the end of this article), including Jack Rosati, from Bricker & Eckler’s Construction Department. Although the members tried to reach consensus on most of the recommendations, all did not agree on every issue. So no one reading the report (found at this http://www. osfc.state.oh.us/news/news.html#Advan) should assume that any specific recommendation reflects the thinking of any particular representative.
For the full flavor of the Working Group’s analysis, it is important to read the entire report. But the “snapshot” here provides a brief listing of all 36 recommendations, broken down into the four categories the group used.
I. Improving the Assessment and Preconstruction Process
- Assessments should establish the total funding to which a district is entitled, and the district should have more flexibility to determine how best to use that total amount.
- When a plan costs less than the assessment, shares (state and local) should be reduced proportionately, while plans costing more should be permitted as long as they are educationally viable and the district will handle the added cost as a locally funded initiative.
- The initial assessment should provide better enrollment projections.
- A statewide definition of “educational viability” should provide a benchmark for evaluating local plans.
- The only means of determining local share should be the Equity List Based Formula, with the Minimum Indebtedness Formula discontinued.
- Alternatively, the OSFC should be allowed to calculate the local share based on individual circumstances, timing, and the tax laws.
- A phased master planning process should be considered, one that permits greater local involvement and state funding of parts of plans.
- Instead of simply providing buildings, district master plans should emphasize learning environments.
- Building renovation and building replacement should be given equal consideration.
- After reviewing its 10 years of renovation project cost data, the OSFC should establish revised contingency guidelines for renovation projects.
- "Oversize spaces” should not automatically be designated as locally funded initiatives.
- The square-foot allocation for small districts should be increased.
- Districts should have more freedom in determining how their buildings should be sold or re-used.
- When a building will have a non-classroom use, the OSFC should still provide asbestos abatement funding.
- Renovation of part of a building should be permitted as a master plan option.
- The OSFC should encourage school-community partnerships to fill unused space or to construct additional space in school buildings.
- There should be more time from the first OSFC contact with a district until the ballot initiative.
- For better results at the ballot box, the OSFC should sponsor workshops for school officials, school boards, and community leaders.
- Because assessments are so important, the OSFC should encourage districts to verify their accuracy by hiring, with local funds, an expert to review the assessment.
- For smaller districts and smaller buildings, architectural, engineering, and construction management fees should increase to attract the best candidates.
- To make assessments cheaper and more effective, the assessment worksheet in the OSFC construction manual should be revised.
II. Optimizing the Planning and Design Process
- Districts need more flexibility to enlarge spaces or use better materials or building techniques, as long as they stay within the funding maximum based on the assessment.
- The OSFC should replace the highly prescriptive aspects of its manual with outcome-based criteria.
- Broad guidelines should replace highly prescriptive approaches so that OSFC projects will be more competitive.
- Design and planning optimization should include the cost of building operation and maintenance.
- All OSFC-funded new construction and major renovations should have “green” high-performance facilities as a goal.
- For all new construction and major renovations, the OSFC should support obtaining certification by the U.S. Green Building Council as meeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards.
- The OSFC should pay at least part of the cost of LEED certification.
- For environmental health and safety, the OSFC should seek guidance from other agencies such as the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s Division of Safety and Hygiene.
III. Improving Construction
- Assure that construction documents are consistently enforced as written by instituting a coordinated, systematic training program for that purpose, involving all field personnel, design professionals, construction managers, and OSFC project administrators.
- Where possible, simplify construction documents and assure that they are non-duplicative.
- Include a default schedule in every bid package.
- Establish and follow a clear, consistent, and open bidding method based on a clear definition of responsible and responsive bidders.
- The OSFC should redefine the requirements for “hardship loans” available during construction when unforeseen conditions arise, so that districts are not required to show insolvency in order to obtain a loan.
- The practice of multiprime contracting should be reviewed based on comprehensive and reliable empirical data.
IV. Evaluating the Partnering Process
The OSFC should re-evaluate the effectiveness of its requirement that all projects use paid consultants to facilitate partnerships among stakeholders in the school construction and renovation process.
The 12 members of the group came from diverse backgrounds.
Three were from State government:
- John Gayetsky, an industrial hygienist and engineer with the Ohio Department of Health, who has expertise in building health and safety.
- Scott North, Esq., Governor’s Special Representative on Regulatory Reform, and formerly a Partner at Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur.
- Mike Shoemaker, Executive Director, Ohio School Facilities Commission.
Three were from local school districts:
- Dr. Joanne Kerekes, Superintendent of rural Pandora-Gilboa Schools during a recent OSFCadministered school construction project, currently with Waynesfield-Goshen Local Schools.
- Jeff LeRose, Business Director, Westerville Public Schools, a suburban school system official with substantial operations experience.
- Pete Maneff, Columbus Public Schools, an urban school system official with expertise in career education.
Two were from non-profit groups:
- Barbara Diamond, Senior Advisor, Knowledge- Works Foundation, an educational foundation with experience in the area of school facilities planning and design.
- Thomas Palmer, Executive Director, Preservation Ohio, a historic preservation advocacy group.
And four were from the private sector:
- Clyde Henry, who chaired the group, an architect and former school teacher with broad experience in school design and construction, and founder, partner, and past president of TRIAD Architects, now retired.
- Pete Crusse, Senior Vice President, Smoot Construction, a commercial construction company with extensive school construction management experience.
- Brad Graupmann, an engineer with Heapy Engineering, a firm with substantial school HVAC and other system engineering experience.
- Jack Rosati, Esq., Partner, Bricker & Eckler LLP, an attorney experienced in representing school districts in construction and other matters.
The Working Group plans a follow-up meeting in six months to assess whether it can provide further assistance.