Oberlin: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow...

Chapter 12

Oberlin City Government


Running Our City

Today Oberlin covers about 4 square miles of land, about the same as when it was started in 1833. Oberlin was a village until 1954. A village is a community with less than 5,000 people. When the 1950 census was taken, Oberlin had more than 5,000 people and officially became a city.

Every city, including Oberlin, has to have a city government to furnish services that citizens would find difficult to provide for themselves. Examples are fire and police protection, streets, parks, storm sewers, and utilities such as water, wastewater treatment, and electricity.

Between 1847 and 1926 thirty four different men served as mayor of Oberlin. A mayor is elected by the citizens to head the city government. In 1923 the people voted to change to a city manager form of government. The City Manager is trained to take care of and manage a city's needs. The citizens of Oberlin do not vote for this person. The City Manager is hired by City Council. Between 1926 and 1995, we had 13 city managers, two women and eleven men.

All cities need money in order to take care of all the services provided. In Oberlin this money comes from a local income tax, property taxes, and fees. The City also receives money from the federal and state governments.

Along with the City Manager, Oberlin has a Council. The Oberlin City Council is made up of seven people who are elected by the citizens of Oberlin for terms of two years. The Council and the City Manager work together to decide what is best for Oberlin. Discussions and decisions are made at City Council meetings which are held at least twice per month.

Other important people are involved in our government. The Auditor is in charge of the City finances which includes collecting utility and other bills, City payrolls, income tax and other revenue, and investing the City funds.

Oberlin has a part-time Solicitor who is appointed by the Council. This person is Oberlin's lawyer and legal advisor to Council and the City Manager.


City Services

Oberlin is a "full service" city. This means that the city provides all the basic utility services: electricity, water, and wastewater treatment.

The Oberlin Municipal Light and Power System Directory oversees our Municipal Light and Power plant. Oberlin has been generating its own electricity since 1934.

The Public Works Director also oversees our water treatment plant on Parsons Road, three miles east of Oberlin. Water is pumped from the Black River into a large reservoir behind the plant. It is them treated with necessary chemicals and pumped into two water storage tanks. From those water towers water flows to houses and businesses. This water treatment plant has been used since 1962. Before that the original treatment plant was located near the two reservoirs on Morgan Street and was used from 1887 until 1962. People used water from wells before that but it was not always healthy.

In 1975 the waste water treatment plant was built on East Lorain Street. Waste water or sewage is collected and cleaned here. It is returned to Plum Creek and eventually flows back to the Black River.

The Fire Chief is in charge of the fire department. The fire station on South Main Street was built in 1976. In 1995, we had two fire pumpers, an aerial ladder-pumper, a tanker, two vans, and a vehicle for the Fire Chief. We had 23 fire fighters who are part-time people that respond when a fire or other emergency occurs.

The Police Department is located in the police station which was a 1987 addition to the City Hall. There is a Chief, Captain, three Sergeants, and ten Patrol Officers. There are also dispatchers who answer telephone and radio calls and relay the messages.

The Director of Public Works, in addition to taking care of our water, is also in charge of the cemetery, storm sewers, parks, streets, and the recycling program.

The Code Administrator inspects houses in Oberlin and handles complaints about rubbish, junk cars, uncut grass and weeds, and unsafe conditions.

The Community Service Director is in charge of recreation, economic development, and working with those desiring to locate in Oberlin.

The City employs approximately one hundred full-time people and some part-time ones as well.

Most of the people who manage our city work in a building called City Hall which was built in 1978 and is located on South Main Street.


Oberlin Board of Education

Our schools have a different governing body. The Board of Education has five members who are elected by voters of the Oberlin School District. The Board decides what our schools will be like. The Superintendent of Schools is hired by the Board to run the schools and the Treasurer is hired to be in charge of the school finances. It takes a lot of money to provide education for all the children of Oberlin.


Rights & Responsibilities of Oberlin's Citizens

Each person who lives in Oberlin plays an important part in the city government. All citizen have rights and responsibilities. Citizens who are 18 or over have the right to vote on important issues including the election of City Council and School Board members and decisions on changing the amount of taxes. Oberlin's citizens can speak out at meetings, can serve on official committees appointed by City Council or Board of Education, and can choose to run for office.

Each Oberlin citizen has the responsibility to obey the laws, pay his or her share of taxes, and to help keep Oberlin a safe and comfortable place to live.



What can you as a citizen of Oberlin do to be a responsible community member? Use words and pictures.

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