Home Education Athens, OU Still Clash on Major Issues, Despite Updated Agreement

Athens, OU Still Clash on Major Issues, Despite Updated Agreement

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Earlier this month, Ohio University President Roderick McDavis and Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl signed into effect additional appendices to the Memorandum of Understanding between the university and the city.

“By formalizing these appendices, we are strengthening our ongoing commitment to collaborate and enhance our relationship,” said President McDavis of the additions, as reported in the OHIO Compass.

On Jan. 2 the pair executed three appendices, with additions such as the Mutual Assistant Agreement, the City-University Joint Patrol Agreement for law enforcement and the Fuel Agreement.

The Mutual Assistance Agreement outlines issues that the university and Athens can collaborate, if need be, while the Joint Patrol agreement officially allows OUPD officers to make arrests, even if off-campus. The fuel agreement, a more transaction-like decision, allows the sale of 40,000 gallons of both diesel and gasoline by OU to Athens.

“Athens City and Ohio University continue their collaborative efforts of memorializing existing agreements in terms of shared resources and identifying additional endeavors that directly affect both the citizens of Athens and Ohio University,” Mayor Wiehl told Compass.

The Mutual Assistance Agreement was signed, in part, by City Service-Safety Director, Paula Horan-Hously. Horan-Hously was previously involved in the development of the MOU, as well as City Council Member Chris Knisely, City Planner Paul Logue and City Engineer Andy Stone.

This formal addition represents a more concrete effort by university administration and Athens government to work together on certain initiatives that concern both parties, given their close proximity.

Since entering the Memorandum of Understanding on April 24, 2012, the coalition has formalized certain aspects of their relationship, such as shared law enforcement between Athens City Police and the OU Police Department as well as transportation issues, given the university’s thorough integration into downtown Athens.

In its initial form, the MOU supported collaboration for emergency management, cooperative infrastructure projects, the sharing of electronic communication equipment and event planning, among others.

The recent developments in this relationship seem to amount to a more cooperative nature between two bodies that have often faced conflict in light of certain issues. The university, being a constantly changing and expanding body, has always been both a blessing and a curse to the city of Athens. While OU provides Athens with a population utilizing city services and supporting local businesses, it also brings inherent problems, especially in relation to fests and Athens’ now-official Halloween block party.

The city and the university have clashed in other areas as well. Recent news that the university plans to demolish the tuberculosis ward of the former Athens Mental Health Facility in the Ridges complex has been met with opposition from native Athenians, most notably the Athens Historical Society. The ward, a victim of frequent trespassing and vandalism, is considered by the Historical Society to be a historic building worth preserving, but in November, facilities director Harry Wyatt insisted on continuing plans to demolish the building largely seen as a nuisance by the university.

In a similar vein, other conflicts like the blocking of Oxbow Lane, more commonly known as Bobcat Lane, from connecting the Baker Center parking area to Richland Avenue is a topic of contention between university and city officials.

Mayor Wiehl is known to be vocal on the issue, seeing it as a hazard and refuting the claim that a city code banning dead end streets applies to university property in that way. Student Senate made a push in recent years to petition Athens to allow the opening of the lane, arguing it provided convenience for students as well as benefitting downtown Athens traffic.

When the most recent Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2012, President McDavis said in a press release, “Ohio University and the City of Athens have had strong connections for over 200 years.” Time will tell whether or not the university and Athens will find common ground on some tough issues.

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