Questions arise over Legion Field agreement

By Laurie Hamame -

A lease renewal for Legion Field Park’s community garden is raising red flags for at least one Oberlin city council member.

Since 2010, council approved one- or two-year agreements with Zion Community Development Corporation to establish and manage an open-access garden.

The organization requested a one-year agreement renewal to continue its work at Legion Field.

Director David Sonner said Monday that the garden has looked and functioned better in the past year than it ever has. “This has been the best year ever, but we’re going to top that in 2018,” he said.

The group’s garden operation drew questions from councilman Kelley Singleton.

Zion CDC is required to provide the city with a record detailing all activities, maintenance and operation costs, and fees collected. The report was due to the city manager no later than Dec. 31 and Singleton said he has not seen any filings for 2017.

He told fellow council members it would be best not to renew the agreement on emergency without proper compliance with the agreement.

He also requested a log book recording all pesticides and fertilizers applied to the garden, which is also required under the contract.

“In a community grant request, Zion said the community garden was a robust year for growing. It says you gave (Oberlin Community Services) 600 pounds of produce. I called OCS today and it’s less than a quarter of that,” Singleton said. “I went out there on Sunday. Your new fences are collapsing on three sides. There are holes on every side. When do you plan on repairing that?”

A call to OCS verified that Zion CDC donated 140 pounds of produce in 2017. Food programs coordinator Hannah Rosenberg said the number of donations can be inaccurate if food is dropped off without being weighed.

Sonner’s reported 600 pounds is “a huge discrepancy,” she said. “I can’t see how it would be inflated that much.”

Sonner said a garden manager has been hired and the work season will begin no later than March 24. He told Singleton that he hasn’t visited the garden recently, but he does not recall any deficiencies.

“People have been very meticulous over the last year about caring for the garden, so I don’t recognize the picture you give,” he said.

“I would suggest taking a trip,” Singleton replied.

The proposed renewal was moved on to a second reading and is expected to appear on the April 3 council agenda.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame