After months of uncertainty regarding an invalidated levy attempt and a stalled consolidation project, the future appears much clearer for the Delaware Area Career Center.
The district's board earlier this month took steps toward putting a levy on the November ballot. In addition, the center may have found a buyer for its north campus: Delaware County.
While county voters in 2015 overwhelmingly voted to renew a 10-year levy for the career center, an error by the county's elections board kept the issue off ballots in portions of Franklin, Marion, Morrow and Union counties served by the center. While the number of voters affected was far too low to change the result of the election, a divided Supreme Court of Ohio ruled in March the error invalidated the approval of the 1.7-mill levy.
A novel solution -- in the form of legislation co-sponsored by state Reps. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) -- will allow the board to put the invalidated levy back on the ballot for voters outside of Delaware County.
In theory, the levy request cannot fail. The levy would pass by about 9,000 votes even if all eligible voters in the four adjacent counties cast their ballots against it.
Career center Superintendent Mary Beth Freeman said the board also has approved a resolution to proceed with a levy in all five counties in case unexpected problems arise with the legislation. She said she views the second request as an "insurance policy" in an "unprecedented situation."
"We have an obligation to our community to take every step to ensure the levy goes properly," she said.
Freeman said the center's leaders expect to pull the five-county levy request from the ballot as soon as it becomes clear the four-county request is viable.
The levy's invalidation led to a pause in construction on a $45 million expansion and renovation project at the center's southern campus off U.S. Route 23 in Liberty Township.
Initially, center officials hoped to move all students from the north campus in Brown Township to the south campus by the second semester of the 2018-19 school year. Freeman said the delay in construction means the consolidation likely will not be completed until the start of the 2019-20 school year or later.
Freeman said construction, which halted earlier this summer, will not resume until she has a letter from the board of elections indicating the levy's success.
The center's board earlier this month approved the sale of the 64-acre north campus site to Delaware County. County commissioners voted July 27 to approve the $1.77 million purchase.
Delaware County spokeswoman Jane Hawes said the campus could become a new home for the county's code compliance, engineering and regional sewer district offices. The Delaware County Regional Planning Commission, among other county entities, also could move to the site.
"(We're) looking at creating a one-stop shop for people in the development and construction community," she said.
Hawes said properties freed up by the moves could be leased or sold by the county.
Jon Melvin, the county's director of facilities management, said in a statement that county officials expect to take possession of the north campus in summer 2019 at the earliest. He said renovations could take more than a year.
Freeman said county officials are aware that the pause in construction at the south campus will delay students' final exit from the north campus east of Delaware. She said she views the sale of the campus as a "win-win."
"It will remain an asset and a benefit to our community and our taxpayers," she said.
Freeman said the sale should fulfill career center officials' goal of preventing the 147,000-square-foot campus from becoming an eyesore or a financial drain on the district.