The State of Oberlin

By Laurie Hamame -

Burgess and Hillard

Burgess and Hillard

“It’s a great day to be in Oberlin,” said city manager Rob Hillard, delivering his signature line March 22 during the State of the City address.

The positive slogan was repeated through the presentation as Hillard and council president Bryan Burgess shared highlights from 2017 and presented an optimistic outlook for the city’s future.

In 2010, the city was awarded a $500,000 Safe Routes to School grant to build bike racks, covered awnings, and lighted crosswalks at the district’s four schools. A big chunk of the money — $350,000 — will go toward new sidewalks and Burgess hopes construction will begin this year on Lincoln Street, which will be fully repaved.

Through the Complete Streets program, which aims to make roadways accessible and safe for everyone, the city will be adding raised brick crosswalks known as “speed tables” on Professor Street. They will reduce the speed of cars with less force than a speed bump and discourage pedestrians from jaywalking, Burgess said.

About 525 feet of water mains on West Lorain Street between Hollywood and North Prospect streets will be replaced with a new 12-foot main. The proposed work is a continuation of a 2014 project that replaced 2,700 feet of water mains from Main Street to Hollywood Street.

The city will also work on its storm water utility project, which has been a topic of conversation for about five years. Burgess said he hopes to have finalized plans this summer to address flooding problems along Reserve Avenue, Hollywood Street, and North Cedar Street.

Burgess also praised Oberlin’s continued commitment to social justice, noting Oberlin’s success in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day and raising the minimum wage for city workers. The city is also establishing more protections for the LGBTQ community and helping people affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“We patch potholes, we make sure the lights are on and the water runs, but there are times a community can step beyond itself and do things that are truly groundbreaking and special,” he said.

Burgess also said the city has more than 85 percent of carbon-neutral power, largely in part to a partnership with American Municipal Power.

The city was among 10 communities in the final round of the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition for saving more than 26 billion thermal units of energy and reducing carbon emissions by 1,701 metric tons over a two-year period.

“Oberlin has this knack of making national headlines,” Burgess said. “We have an impact on the rest of the nation that I don’t think we fully realize.”

Other highlights include:

• The recreation department’s playground experience, which entertains kids all summer long, now extends into August instead of July. The city’s after-school enrichment program is now five days a week instead of three.

• The Underground Railroad Center will begin its second phase, which includes construction of a 2,081-square-foot picnic pavilion on the north side of the site with restrooms and bike racks.

• Twelve new homes were built on Reserve Avenue.

• Alco Manufacturing, Dave’s Cosmic Subs, and Fusions restaurant are new businesses in town. AgriNomix is working on its third expansion. Ascension Biomedical, a medical marijuana growth facility, is looking to make its way into Oberlin’s Industrial Park this summer. Synapse Biomedical manufactured the first medically-approved diaphragm simulator.

• Oberlin College is building a health and wellness addition to its recreation center.

• The historic Johnson House barn, recently moved from the Oberlin College campus to US 20, was salvaged and turned into a multi-use venue by the Lorain County Metro Parks.

• An energy-efficient police vehicle and a new fire rescue pumper will be purchased this year.

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

Burgess and Hillard and Hillard

By Laurie Hamame