COLUMBUS - A bill approving the merger of the University of Toledo and the Medical University of Ohio continued its rapid dash for the finish line yesterday as a House committee voted unanimously to send it to the chamber floor.
The full House could vote on the measure as early as Wednesday, sending it to the Senate less than a month after it was introduced, a breakneck pace by Columbus standards.
The only amendment attached to the bill before it left committee was a promise that nonteaching employees who are members of the Public Employees Retirement System will remain members of that pension system after the merger.
Rep. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills), the bill's sponsor, said advance work done by the universities has reduced controversy that otherwise might be expected with the merger of two schools into a single institution with a $650 million annual budget and 21,000 students.
"The university presidents have answered a lot of the questions that have already come up," he said.
Although some employees of the schools and residents of nearby neighborhoods have expressed concern over what might happen after the two schools unite to create the third-largest university in Ohio's budget, no one opposed the bill before the House Finance Committee.
"Based on the experience of the University of Toledo when they expanded as far as Dorr Street, there's been concern about what further expansion may occur into some of those historic, middle-class, black neighborhoods like Secor Gardens," Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo) said.
"I am absolutely committed to making sure that the neighborhoods that have been there and worked very hard to make a quality of life in their communities will be protected during this process," he said.
Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, MUO president and soon to be president of the merged UT, assured the House committee last week that the university would not attempt to use eminent domain to condemn residential property between the two schools.
The merger is expected to take place July 1, but it would take until July 2, 2014, before the newly merged board of trustees would be whittled from 17 members to nine.
It remains to be seen how much one-time money the state will supply for the transition to help cover the costs of computer-system improvements, renovations, severance packages for some employees, and program realignments.
The General Assembly, however, is not expected to supply the full $20 million that a study suggested it would take.
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