Pickerington Times-Sun

Proposed OhioHealth agreement raises advertising concerns

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A Pickerington School Board member recently took exception to an exclusive advertising clause within a proposed OhioHealth contract for athletic training and education services.

During a Jan. 13 school board meeting, board member Lisa Reade was outspoken in her opposition to a section of a proposed 10-year "cooperative agreement" with OhioHealth.

Reade seemingly had no problems with provisions of the proposed agreement through which OhioHealth would provide sports medicine services to Pickerington Local School District student athletes at no cost to the district.

She also didn't quibble with a section establishing that OhioHealth would construct 2,000 square feet of space at its planned 150,000-square-foot Pickerington medical campus to provide educational programming for district students.

What Reade -- and to a lesser extent board member Lori Sanders -- did take umbrage with that evening was an "in-kind consideration" within the proposal whereby the district would "exclude advertising by other hospital, healthcare, sports medicine, or sports programs and other documents and any other available advertising space during the term of this contract ... and that no other hospital, healthcare, sports medicine or orthopedic provider shall be listed as the sponsor of any athletic program, event, team or camp or be recognized during games at events as such."

"They're not going to get that here," Reade said. "I don't think that's appropriate."

Reade told Emmett Kelly, an attorney for OhioHealth, the board was "definitely willing to work with" the organization to refine the agreement.

However, she said, excluding all other doctors and healthcare providers -- some of whom have financially supported the district and district athletics for years -- was "not how we build relationships in the community."

School District Treasurer Ryan Jenkins said the intent of the exclusivity clause was to avoid a repeat of a situation at another "outerbelt school" to which OhioHealth provides significant sponsorship services.

At that school, Jenkins noted, OhioHealth's direct competitors, including the Ohio State Medical Center, have advertised on a scrolling sign provided by OhioHealth.

A source with knowledge of the situation, but who did not want to speak on the record said the other school in question was the Hilliard City School District.

"They (OhioHealth) know their competitors, so to speak," Jenkins said to Reade. "Their competition is not who you're describing."

Although the initial agreement between the school district and OhioHealth is for 10 years, it can be renewed for up to 30 years.

Kelly said the healthcare organization seeks exclusivity rights for the duration of the agreement.

"It's an expansion of language as a result of experiences OhioHealth has had in other areas," Kelly said.

While Reade at the Jan. 13 meeting said the exclusivity clause should be removed, she softened her stance three days later.

Reached by telephone Jan. 16, Reade said, "We're just tweaking (the agreement) so we're not going to hurt the 'mom and pop' physicians in Pickerington. I think it's very close to being resolved.

"I think this is going to build a terrific relationship between OhioHealth and the Pickerington Schools," she said.

Through the agreement, Reade said OhioHealth would provide the district with a "very big compensation package annually" and that the school board is "very appreciative."

According to Jenkins, the annual compensation value of the proposed OhioHealth agreement is between $116,000 and $136,000.

Jenkins said OhioHealth would forgive the district of between $30,000 and $66,000 in annual leasing and operational costs related to the educational space that would be provided at the medical campus, as well as $40,000 to $50,000 per year for a staff member to provide educational programming to students. It also would provide about $30,000 in sports medicine services to the district each year.

Additionally, OhioHealth each year would pay $16,000 to promote the Pickerington High School North Girls' Holiday Basketball Tournament and the PHS North-Pickerington High School Central football game.

Reade said she doesn't oppose the partnership, but wanted to make sure local district supporters who work in the medical field aren't excluded from sponsorship opportunities that also increase their visibility in the community.

"We have a lot of independent physicians that support our athletics," she said. "Our intent is not to hurt those businesses.

"We think there's a way to do that and we're all working on it."

The board is expected to resume discussions regarding the OhioHealth agreement at its next meeting, slated for 7 p.m. Jan. 27 in Heritage Elementary School, 100 East St.

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