OU And City Leaders Pledge To Continue Formal Collaboration

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The City of Athens and Ohio University officials are pledging to continue to formalize initiatives between the city and the university in the upcoming year.

Since issuing a memorandum of understanding in April 2012, OU and Athens representatives have met monthly in a work group to hash out formal agreements and projects involving law enforcement, fire protection, infrastructure, transportation, economic development and several other areas related to both city and university operations.

"We're finding new ways that we can join together, pursue and formalize initiatives," said Jennifer Kirksey, chief of staff and special assistant to OU President Roderick McDavis. "Some of it is formalizing initiatives that are already pre-existing and some of it is identifying additional endeavors that we can both jointly pursue together."

Most recently, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl and McDavis executed three appendices, added to the memorandum in November. They renewed the mutual assistance agreement for four years, memorialized a four-year agreement for a city-university joint patrol and a one-year fuel agreement between OU and Athens.

The mutual assistance agreement identifies the instances in which collaborative city and university assistance could be necessary, provides arrest authority for OU police officers when off university property and establishes general guidelines and policies for instances when mutual assistance is required.

The joint patrol agreement allows the city and university police departments to conduct joint patrol activities and outlines the responsibilities of each party for the policing endeavor.

The new fuel agreement, which authorizes the city's annual purchase of 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 40,000 gallons of gasoline from the university, now includes a three percent increase in administrative costs to the city.

Paula Moseley, Athens city-service safety director, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the group's 2012 collaborations, which included OU's homecoming and Halloween weekends and a campaign visit from President Barack Obama.

"Frankly, having a sitting president come to your city and successfully and safely get in and out is a success," she said.  

But despite the group's successes, Mosley said they had to overcome several challenges along the way.

"One of our greatest challenges in 2012 was the horrific riotous event that we had at Palmer Fest," said Mosely, referencing a house fire that shut the April block party down. "But when it came to Mill Fest, we had the university out in full force and the city out in full force, and we did not have those issues."

The memorandum of understanding work group is expected to meet next week for the first time this year, where they'll continue to work on pre-determined projects and possibly brainstorm new ones.

"I think the next areas that we are going to start examining are utilities, infrastructure, business and economic development, transportation, land use planning and solid waste," said Kirksey.

Mosely said upcoming city and university collaborations include the renovation of the Oxbow Bridge and OU's housing master plan, which will require the city to change a traffic pattern.

Copies of the most recently executed appendices are attached below.