Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Job Corps drops College Hill plan




By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The U.S. Department of Labor has ended its plans to move the Cincinnati Job Corps Center to College Hill following opposition from the neighborhood.

        The Job Corps had hoped to buy the 27-acre Hamilton Avenue property formerly occupied by Phoenix International and move its urban jobs program there from the West End. The program has occupied a former convent since 1970.

        In a letter to property owner MDS Pharma Services last week — and released by Rep. Steve Chabot's office Tuesday — the Labor Department declared the purchase agreement “null and void.”

        A clause in the government's purchase contract allowed it to back out of the deal if the community did not support the relocation.

        Officials from the Labor Department did not return calls Tuesday.

        But Mr. Chabot said the meaning of the letter is clear: The plan to move to College Hill is dead, and it's because residents voiced their concerns.

        Many College Hill residents, led by activist James Bodmer, said they worried about the impact that 225 young people, ages 16 to 24, would have on a neighborhood dealing with its own problems with idle youth.

        And above all, they objected to the Labor Department's lack of candor until the move came to light this month, Mr. Bodmer said.

        “If they would have come to us up front, we would have listened to them. I'm not saying we would have agreed, but we would have listened,” he said. “But because of the secrecy around it, they lost the trust of the people and could never regain it.”

        Jerry Merritt, vice president of MDS Pharma Services, said Tuesday he hadn't seen the letter and was surprised the Labor Department canceled the purchase agreement.

        The last he heard, officials in Washington wanted to extend the closing date on the property past Aug. 31 in order to solicit more community input, he said.

        Dr. Merritt said he has several institutions interested in buying the property, but would not elaborate.

        Mr. Bodmer said most people in the neighborhood would support a hospital campus at the site.

       



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