Migrant move-in delayed until November

Jun 3—NORWALK — The timetable for migrant workers moving into Norwalk has been pushed back until November.

Norwalk Mayor Dave Light said workers from Green Circle Growers in Oberlin were expected to move into their new housing on Cline Street earlier this year, but plans have changed.

Light said the state hath mandated that the living quarters were not big enough for four men.

Green Circle has five buildings with 17 apartments in each building. Originally, with four men in each apartment, there was room for a maximum of 340 men.

“Now, with what we are told with the new state of Ohio mandates, they can only have three men in each apartment with comes out to 255, unless they expand their living area,” Light said. “If they expand their living area, they can go back to four men in each apartment. Because of this snag, they are not coming to Norwalk until November.”

Light said it would take some work to comply with the state.

“To expand the living area they would have to enclose a patio area in order for that to count as a living space,” Light said. “That is my understanding.”

Light said the confusion came about when Corso’s Flower & Garden Center of Sandusky started building its three complexes on the same site.

“Corso’s filed the exact same blueprints so that is how that came about,” Light said. “Somebody down there caught it. Corso’s is going to make their apartments bigger. They will have three buildings with 17 apartments in each building and because they are making their’s bigger they will have four men in each apartment for a total of 204.”

Shouldn’t it have been caught earlier?

“They certainly should have for Green Circle,” Light said. “When Corso’s turned in their blueprints somebody caught it. The outdoor living space can not be used for living space. This caused heartburn for Green Circle. They will be in compliance but it will just take them a little longer.”

When the workers finally do move into Norwalk, they will be here six to eight months working six days a week at Green Circle.

“Treat them with respect,” CJ van Wingerden, Green Circle Growers co-chief executive officer said at a March open house. “Treat them with kindness. Treat them like another neighbor. Smile. Look them in the eye. They are all great guys. Treat them with kindness.

“They are excited to come here … more like home,” van Wingerden said. “It’s a privilege to be here. We’re here for the long haul.

“There probably will be problems … it won’t be perfect. We want this to be a place we can be proud of. We’re not just monetarily invested — we are emotionally invested.”

Van Wingerden said about 80 percent of the workers’ salaries goes back home to their families, while 20 percent stays in the community.

“A million, million-and-a-half will stay here in the community,” he said.

He said most of the H2A workers come from Mexico and Central America.

About half of them speak English, van Wingerden said. “They usually partner up when they go out (to help each other communicate).”

There is a bathroom, kitchen, TV and small living area in each apartment and each worker will have his own locker.

There are laundry facilities, a game room and a quiet room where workers can talk to and Facetime their families.

Outside there are a couple of soccer fields, a fishing pond, a pavilion and grills.

The Rev. James Hodsden, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Norwalk, was at the March event and said this is a good opportunity for the community.

“It could be, it certainly can be … if we want to take advantage of it,” he said. “It’s going to happen — it’s happening. The question is what are we going to do with it? As a pastor in the community we can show the love of Christ or not, and it seems like a pretty easy choice — at least for me .”

Hodsden also is president of the Norwalk Ministerial Association.

“I would say again, you have a choice — show the love of Christ or not,” he said. “And I think that is an easy choice.”

Just for the construction of the buildings, not including the appliances, the cost of the complex was over $8 million, Light said.

“That is quite an investment in Norwalk.”

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