FREMONT — As 2021 comes to a close, the News-Messenger is counting down the top 10 stories of the year. This is part 1 and includes the expansion of Birchard Public Library, Fremont native Monica Ramirez’s inclusion on an exclusive national list and Fremont Ross High School opening its new building.
10. Birchard Library breaks ground on new expansion project
Birchard Public Library’s long-awaited multimillion building expansion and addition project took a major step forward in August, as library staff, board members and community leaders gathered at a groundbreaking ceremony.
Pam Hoesman, Birchard’s director, said the residents of Sandusky County told library officials five years ago they wanted more services and opportunities to succeed and thrive in a changing world.
“Today, we are taking steps to make that dream a reality,” Hoesman said prior to the ceremonial dirt shoveling in the empty field across from Birchard’s west side.
Birchard project’s financing
Birchard Public Library’s board approved a $6.17 million guaranteed maximum price amendment in June for the library’s building addition and renovation project.
Birchard’s board of trustees selected Mosser Construction Inc. in June 2020 to perform construction manager at risk services for the Fremont main library addition and renovation project.
The board voted in June to use a $3.5 million USDA loan to finance the project.
The Birchard Public Library addition and renovation project had a preliminary estimated price tag of between $5.5 million and $6 million.
In December 2019, Birchard’s library board approved putting a $3.24 million down payment toward the project.
What will be added at Birchard Public Library?
Birchard will add a 4,250-square-foot wing with a new entrance and parking lot on the west end of its current Fremont building.
The addition will extend across the street and into the library’s western block, which is on the Croghan Street property that used to house the old Fremont Middle School building.
The 8,500-square-foot addition on the west side of the library will include a technology room, four tutoring rooms and a new children’s area.
Other planned features in the addition, according to the library, include:
• Spaces for learning to create sound and video productions to enhance marketing and entrepreneurial skills.
• A WiFi café where citizens can utilize tablets and other digital devices.
• A sensory room for children with special needs who need a space to regain calm.
• A dedicated teen room offering programs, services and resources designed to engage young adults.
• Additional meeting rooms to encourage discussion of literature, the arts and current events by a wide variety of local groups, organizations and individuals.
• A local history room and museum celebrating the history of Sandusky County.
Library officials also want a more spacious and easily accessible entry closer to handicapped parking spaces, as well as ADA compliant restrooms on all floors offering public services.
The library purchased the old middle school site for $1 in 2014.
Work has picked up at the Birchard expansion site in recent weeks.
Hoesman said Thursday footers are being poured and the new parking area is being excavated and compacted.
Piping for storm water is being laid and the underground water retention system is scheduled to be installed the first week of January, Hoesman said.
9. Fremont activist named to Time magazine’s ‘Next 100’ list
Fremont native Monica Ramirez is one of the names to know, according to Time magazine.
The activist who has fought for the rights of migrant workers as founder of Justice for Migrant Women and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) was named to Time magazine’s Next 100, a list of influential people that also includes athletes such as quarterback Trevor Lawrence, influencers such as poet Amanda Gorman and actresses including Anya Taylor-Joy and Florence Pugh.
The list is compiled by the magazine’s editorial board, and once the list is compiled, friends and peers are often tasked with writing about the recipients.
“When I found out I was on the list, I cried, you know, because this is such a huge honor,” Ramirez said.
Known for activism, advocacy efforts
The Fremont native graduated from Loyola University in Chicago in 1999 with a degree in communications and went on to obtain a doctor of law degree from the Ohio State University and a master in public administration from Harvard University.
Ramirez is most likely known for her work as an activist for migrant women, an important aspect of summer work being done in many farms across Sandusky County.
Born and raised in Fremont, Ramirez said she moved back to her home city a few years ago having had so many fond memories of the community that raised her.
Last year, Ramirez founded The Latinx House with a mission to unite the Latin community by offering space for artists, content creators and grassroots organizers to address issues that impact the Latinx community.
Ramirez said a few weeks ago she and others returned from the Sundance Film Festival, which was Latinx’s second trip to the festival to promote more Latinx films.
In August 2020, Ramirez partnered with actresses Eva Longoria, America Ferrera and others to create She Se Puede, a group designed to educate and empower Latinas across the country.
Justice For Migrant Women, a Fremont-based group founded by Ramirez, launched the national campaign of the “The Humans Who Feed Us” project in November in partnership with chefs, restaurants, and universities from across the country.
The group introduced the first phase of the project in Fremont earlier this year, a “Humans Who Feed Us” exhibit at the Sandusky County Fairgrounds during the Sandusky County Fair.
The project humanizes workers across the food supply chain and shows the interdependence among businesses, the workers they employ and consumers and fosters a sense of belonging for these incredible community members in the places where they live and work.
“The exhibit and this campaign is about celebrating these incredible people,” Ramirez told the News-Messenger.
Ramírez created the narrative and portrait project in conjunction with her fellowship with the Butterfly Lab for Immigrant Narrative Strategy (an initiative established by Race Forward).
The group highlighted the experiences of eight agricultural workers as they shared some of the experiences they have had while working, some of the challenges they have experienced and some of their thoughts about how community members can make them feel more connected and included in the community.
8. Fremont Ross opens up new building
Superintendent Jon Detwiler likened the new Fremont Ross High School building to a “unicorn,” too good to be true after district officials battled the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions and workforce shortages to get it completed.
Fremont City Schools held an open house in early December in which students, staff and community members could tour the new building, the soon-to-be-torn-down Fremont Ross High School building, and all of the district’s elementary school buildings.
At the new Fremont Ross building, school district officials held a brief ceremony to thank the public for its support and to acknowledge the challenges of completing construction during such an unusual time.
Detwiler said Traci McCaudy, his predecessor as superintendent, played a key role in planning for the new Ross building, as well as the district’s four new elementary school buildings.
The FCS board approved a $49.5 million guaranteed maximum price amendment in October 2019 for construction of the new 192,000-square-foot Ross building.
The project was completed by Toledo’s Gilbane Building Company and Mosser Construction in Fremont.
Detwiler said in November the school district came in about $400,000 under budget with the construction of its four new elementary schools and has stayed on course, budget-wise, with the new high school building.
New Ross building is environmentally friendly
Fremont Ross’ new building includes more than 60 interactive displays, each measuring 75 inches.
The new structure is on track to be a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver building, with more than a dozen sustainable features that include a reflective roof, water-efficient landscaping and the use of recycled and renewable materials in construction.
Detwiler said the 2020 shutdowns hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic presented huge challenges for the school district, in terms of completing the Fremont Ross building on time.
“We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get workers on-site to work,” Detwiler said.
The FCS superintendent said labor shortages had been an issue the past 18 months, as well as supply chain problems.
The new high school’s construction is on schedule, with FCS expecting to get loose furnishings such as desks and chairs before the start of its winter semester.
FCS has a plan for staff to move in over Christmas break and students to begin classes in the new building Jan. 3 for the start of the 2021-2022 school year’s second semester.