Two separate annexation petitions have been filed in June to move the Lorain County Joint Vocational School into the city’s limits.
Oberlin law director Jon Clark filed a lawsuit June 11 against the school stating that educators refuse to honor a 44-year-agreement.
The suit claims the JVS struck a deal when it was being built in 1971 to receive Oberlin sewer services and in return its 133 acres would be annexed if the city limits ever swallowed up neighboring properties.
A piece of land across Rt. 58 from the school was brought into the city in 2007, prompting Oberlin officials in 2013 to seek annexation of the JVS.
“The JVS denies it has any legal obligation to annex is property into the city of Oberlin by any method, let alone by the method pushed by Oberlin, which can only be seen as a tax grab,” states a JVS press release.
Educators filed an Expedited Type II petition for annexation on June 24 with the Lorain County commissioners.
In a counter-proposal filed with the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas, the JVS is seeking annexation for only 98.37 acres of land, which is 28 parcels.
If approved, it would also bar the city from collecting income tax from school employees.
“The other municipality can annex us but they can’t receive our income taxes from our employees if it’s approved,” said JVS superintendent Glenn Faircloth.”I’m hoping that we can protect our employees. Our teachers and staff members work hard.”
City manager Eric Norenberg said he objects to the annexation strategy that has been proposed by the JVS.
Faircloth said the vocational school helped pay for the installation of sewers in 1971 and has paid for everything they have received from the city.
“Nobody’s given us anything for free and we struggled with that over the years and we’ve worked hard to balance our books and we would like to keep them balanced,” he said.
“We hope that by doing this it will just be resolved and we can move forward,” said JVS board president Rex Engle. “It’s not about protecting the employees, it’s about protecting the right thing to do.”
Faircloth said if the school has breached the contract, he will abide by whatever decision is handed down by a judge.
“We will become compliant and that’s always been my stance,” he said.
The school’s proposed petition has to be approved by the county commissioners, the city of Oberlin, and Pittsfield Township.
Clark said if the commissioners approve the school’s petition then city council will have to look at an ordinance within 20 days of the approval to address what services Oberlin will provide to the JVS.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik. Kelsey Leyva also contributed to this story and can be reached at 440-647-3171.