Commission Executive Director Richard Hickman said the biennial budget for the recently reformatted commission will enable the commission to continue supporting bond funding for K-12 school construction and the 100 jobs necessary to oversee projects. In addition, the budget includes funding to implement the OAKS Capital Improvement module, which is already used at state agencies and universities; changes the HB264 programs in the Energy Services Section to require energy-savings guarantees by vendors and ensure districts in fiscal or academic emergencies get the approval of their oversight commissions before agreeing to a project; bring capital improvement functions of the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission under the facilities commission; and remove the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ separate construction authority to align its construction practices with other agencies.
In addition, the budget would create a $12 million grant program from capital funds to school security, to provide school districts that apply with one MARCS radio one door security system per building.
Rep. Maag asked why having a MARCS radio would be superior to schools reaching first responders on the telephone. Hickman said phone lines often are jammed or busy during emergencies, but the radio would allow direct contact. In response to a question from Rep. Hayes about jurisdictions where safety forces use non-MARCS radios, Hickman noted that the initiative is a voluntary grant programs, so schools are able to decide for themselves to apply.
Rep. Phillips asked how the $12 million figure was determined, and how much knowledge the commission has about security needs. Hickman said the attorney general’s office is conducting a review of overall school security needs, but results aren’t available from that yet. He told Rep. Lundy he suspects the agency could come back with an additional funding request if the $12 million is insufficient to meet demand.
In response to another question from Lundy, Hickman said the commission has made several changes to how it acquires furniture for buildings to answer concerns that some bid specifications were being written in such a way that only one company, sometimes and out-of-state or overseas firm, qualified to submit bids.