The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) has begun the process of merging staff with the Ohio Architect’s Office under a new Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) that was created to oversee state building projects under HB487 (Amstutz), the Mid-Biennium Review bill. 

Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Tim Keen, who serves as chair of the OSFC, laid out the process for the merging of the staffs during Thursday’s OSFC meeting. Under the administration’s plans, both staffs would serve under the OFCC banner with one executive director overseeing the agency. The OFCC would also have an oversight commission made up of the OBM Director, the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) director and an appointment made by the governor. 

Keen also said the plan is to keep some of the functions of OSFC separate to recognize the importance of the state’s school construction program. The school facilities commission would still exist as it is currently constituted under state law, but under resolutions passed by the commission Thursday, the panel would not approve contracts as it currently does. Instead, that authority would fall to the OFCC executive director, and the OSFC would have a “policy making, policy setting and oversight role.” 

Both commissions would meet quarterly, likely on the same day back-to-back. Keen said that an organizational meeting of the new OFCC would be held on Sept. 10, the effective date of portions of HB487, and an executive director would be named then by the OFCC. OSFC’s final meeting this year will be held on Oct. 25. The 2013 calendar includes meetings set for Jan. 24, April 25, July 11 and Oct. 24. 

“Essentially we will have that one contracting process, one set of documents, one set of procedures that will cover both school facilities and the other facilities generally,” Keen has said. “The School Facilities Commission continues to exist, and will continue to meet to provide broad, programmatic oversight, to provide programmatic direction, to provide policy direction, on the school program. The Facilities Construction Commission will provide that on all the non-school programs.” 

He said the merger will occur “pretty promptly” with pre-planning already underway. Staffs of the OSFC and the state architect’s office are expected to move into a new space in the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation building in November. 

The School Facilities Commission also discussed possible changes to its energy conservation program, more commonly known as the HB264 Program after the implementing legislation passed in the mid-1980s. 

The discussion was prompted during a presentation on two more awards under the program when DAS Director Bob Blair asked about what is being done to promote the program and how school districts find possible savings. 

OSFC Executive Director Richard Hickman said that currently, many school districts are approached by an energy consultant who may promote projects that can be performed with savings to pay off the debt of those projects. He said the OSFC has begun reviewing that process and is planning to present the commission with a report by the end of the year. He noted that current law for state agencies requires a contractor to pay the state for savings not realized by the projects, but that is not the case for school projects in the HB264 program.  

After the meeting, Hickman said that the review will look at how the energy conservation contracting process works for state agencies and for school facilities, and will look for common ways to improve and streamline the process. He also said the review will look to see if it is better to have school districts require energy consultant to guarantee the savings in the contract like state agencies currently require. 

“It will take some analysis. It will take some discussion with organizations that represent school districts — there’s the School Boards Association, there’s the Buckeye Association of School Administrators — that represent various aspects of school administration. We won’t do this in isolation,” Hickman said. 

He said there currently is no competitive requirement for contracts awarded through the program, and that is one thing the review will focus on. 

“There’s a lot of aspects we need to look at, and if we can conform that and make them very similar without creating other issues, that’s what we’re looking for,” he said. Hickman said some changes may require legislation. 

In other action, the commission approved a resolution updating the exceptional program guidelines to conform it with SB316 (Lehner), and heard a presentation on OSFC’s update to its vision and mission to reflect the current direction of the commission. It also approved more than $22.5 million in construction trade contracts. The 37 contracts were for work in 20 school districts.