Highlights: The OSFC has made a huge impact on K-12 classroom facilities in Ohio as many school districts have participated in one or more of its building programs. While the Commission’s mission remains constant to address K-12 classroom facilities needs for all students in Ohio, the program continues to evolve. In February, the Commission appointed a new Executive Director and rescinded the resolutions adopted in 2007 that had permitted certain Model Responsible Bidder Workforce Standards to be included as contract requirements.

The OSFC is a relatively young organization. Yet, in thirteen years, it has made a huge impact on K–12 classroom facilities in Ohio as many school districts have participated in a co-funded program or in the Expedited Local Partnership Program. The Commission also reviews and approves applications for the HB 264 energy conservation program and is the state agency for the Qualified School Construction Bonds program.

While the Commission’s mission remains to address K–12 classroom facilities needs for all students in Ohio, its approach continues to evolve. Most recently the fifth executive director was appointed by the Commission on February 24, 2011. Rick Hickman brings a familiarity with Commission programs and policies to the position, since he also served as the third executive director a few years ago. With this background, he has been able to jump immediately into a normal routine at the Commission, which includes the same budget issues facing everyone and other concerns unique to the Commission.

At the same time Mr. Hickman was appointed, the Commission also rescinded two resolutions adopted in 2007: Resolutions 07-98 and 07-16. These resolutions added a total of eighteen approved items, labeled “Model Responsible Bidder Workforce Standards,” that a board of education on a co-funded Commission building program could adopt to supplement the bidder evaluation criteria and process included in the standard contract documents prepared for these projects. Two of these items, requiring payment of wage rates based upon Ohio Prevailing Wage Rates published by the Department of Commerce and implementing a Project Labor Agreement for the construction project, were a departure from past Commission policy.

In taking the action to rescind the resolutions, the Commission stated its belief “that many of the Model Responsible Bidder Workforce Standards contained in Exhibit A to Resolution 07-98 are redundant with current law, serve to restrict efficient procurement by increasing project costs or restricting competition by otherwise qualified contractors, or are not reasonably related to responsible bidder criteria.”

The rescission of the resolutions that permitted the adoption of any of the 18 items, or variations of them, means that for any bids issued after February 24, 2011, these items may not be included. For boards that adopted any of the Model Responsible Bidder Workforce Standards after February 15, 2007, that action must now be rescinded to conform to the new Commission policy for any future procurement associated with the co-funded project.

For a board of education that decided to enter into a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with the local building and construction trades council having jurisdiction over the school district’s territory, those agreements were always subject to Commission approval. Because a PLA is often prepared and signed before the Board of Education has secured its local share of funding for the project and before it has entered into a Project Agreement with the Commission for the project, Commission approval has always been a future step in the process. Today, even if a board received approval from the Commission for a PLA, that decision must be reviewed and evaluated on a project-specific basis to determine if can still be included as a project requirement.

From a practical perspective, boards of education have always been able to enhance the criteria included in the OSFC Standard Documents and to include additional requirements with approval from the Commission. This was accomplished through the Special Conditions document, which also includes other modifications, additions and deletions of standard OSFC provisions to reflect (1) best practices since the last version of the standard documents (issued in September 2008); and (2) specific project practices of the construction manager and project requirements.

This will continue to be the case, although Special Conditions for each district’s project must now be reviewed and approved before they can be included in the Contract Documents issued to bidders. It is important for the district’s construction counsel to work closely with the Core Team, and specifically with the Construction Manager to prepare special conditions for each project that reflect the needs for that project and to secure the required approval from the Commission.

A board of education may still choose to implement a local participation program with a defined goal for involvement of businesses and contractors within a defined area. Unlike a charter municipality that may provide an incentive for local participation, public school districts cannot give preferences to local businesses or residents. A thoughtful local participation program, however, can encourage the involvement of local businesses and contractors in the project and be very successful in involving the community.

Other items under consideration by the Commission at this time include:

  • Procurement of loose furnishings for classroom facilities constructed through a co-funded program
  • Bid-day savings and how those savings can be used for the project
  • Encouraging competition among bidders for work on co-funded projects.  

In addition to the executive director position, the Commission’s chief fiscal officer, Eric Bode, resigned at the beginning of March to take a position with the Department of Education. Both the chief fiscal officer and in-house legal counsel positions are currently vacant, and the Commission expects to have these two important roles filled soon.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual at the Commission with a little patience as the staff adjusts to a new director and new directions.