Cincinnati Needs Lots Of Money To Replace Aging Buildings

Apr 14, 2017

Cincinnati needs $103.5 million to replace obsolete and inadequate facilities that serve General Fund departments like police and fire, according to a report from city officials.

The amount updated in 2017 dollars is based on needs identified in a 1996 assessment.

The same document said the city needs to spend $8 million a year just to keep what the city has in operating condition.

Also, not included are separate needs for Parks, Recreation and the Health Departments.  Those estimates for capital projects for the next several years total more than $133 million.

It comes as the city is facing a tight capital budget.

Council Members Kevin Flynn and Christopher Smitherman asked for a list of fire houses in the city that need to be replaced.  It was part of a motion seeking funds to replace the aging District 5 police station.  

Administrators replied with the list of all facility needs from a November 2016 assessment from the Department of Public Services on "The State of Cincinnati General Fund Buildings."

The report lists five projects as "primary" needs with a price tag of $66.4 million.  Those include: the Municipal Garage, Fire Station 8, Police District 5, Fire Station 49 and the West Fork incinerator.

Chart listing Cincinnati city facilities that need replaced.
Credit Provided / City of Cincinnati

A list of "secondary" needs adds another $37.1 million.

General Fund departments have 88 facilities and the 1996 report found that 34 of them were "functionally obsolete" and 17 are still being used today.  Those 17 are the primary and secondary facilities identified for replacement or sale.

"There are no outside government sources for funding of facility capital improvements and private donors are far more interested and necessary for buildings such as Music Hall and the Art Museum," the report summary section said. "Stewardship of over $700,000,000 in taxpayer investments are being overlooked and ignored while new grand capital improvements are added elsewhere in the city. At the same time, simple upkeep levels have fallen below what we expect of homeowners and out maintenance reductions only increase the potential for losing services at one of these vital buildings."

The report notes the lack of maintenance on city facilities will affect operating budgets with higher operating and maintenance costs.

City Manager Harry Black launched the Capital Acceleration Program a couple years ago to address street paving and the city's aging vehicle fleet.  The city issued bonds, or debt, to cover those areas.

Now there are some who suggest perhaps it is time to consider such a program for the city's aging facilities.

Black is set to introduce his budget proposal next month, which will include money for capital projects.  But without additional revenues, the list of needs will still outpace the funds available.