Metropolitan Sewer District

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Water is a big topic these days. There's a scarcity of it out West. Algae blooms shut down Toledo's drinking water system earlier this month, and Cincinnati remains on the leading edge of water technology. But those are all obvious. We see or hear about them frequently.  WVXU went looking behind-the-scenes at a hidden aspect of our water delivery system - something thousands of Cincinnatians pass each day but never truly see.

Sarah Ramsey

The Hamilton County Commissioners are reemphasizing a ruling from a federal magistrate in June that the county gets to make the rules for the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), and the city of Cincinnati as the operator must follow them.  

The commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday outlining county policies and directives for MSD that have been given in the past and adding some new ones.

Hamilton County Commission President Chris Monzel:

The City of Cincinnati is objecting to allegations levied by Hamilton County regarding the management of the Metropolitan Sewer District.

In a letter from interim city manager Scott Stiles to county administrator Christian Sigman, the city says it is "extremely disappointed" by the county's "adversarial approach."

Hamilton County Commissioners say cost overruns on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects are too high and are indicating leadership is the problem.

In other words: MSD director Tony Parrott needs to go.

In a letter to interim Cincinnati city manager Scott Stiles, Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says "major cost overruns within several federal Consent Decree projects is merely a symptom of larger management issues within MSD."

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are officially asking a federal judge to intervene in their  Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) dispute with Cincinnati.

The board voted unanimously Wednesday to ask for a ruling on which body gets to set policies for the district.

The sewer district is owned by the county but operated by the city.

The sides have been at odds over hiring and procurement policies instituted by the city. County Commissioners argue the policies are unfair and in some cases illegal. City attorneys and a majority of council members disagree.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are retaining Dinsmore & Shohl to review their plans to take the city of Cincinnati to court over a sewer district dispute.

The law firm is being asked to prepare the county's case and offer an outside opinion on which government entity it thinks is right. At issue is whether the county or the city gets to set policy for the Metropolitan Sewer District. The county owns the utility but it is operated by the city.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are retaining outside legal counsel in their fight with the City of Cincinnati over the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).

The city and county disagree over who gets to set policy for MSD - the county which owns it, or the city which operates it.

Commissioners voted 2-1 with lone Democrat Todd Portune dissenting.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

The debate over who sets policy for the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) is headed to a federal judge.

"We're beyond the negotiation phase," says Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann.

Hamilton County Commissioners and the City of Cincinnati are at odds over several city-instituted hiring procedures. The county says the hiring rules are illegal under Ohio Revised Code but the city argues it has home rule which trumps the O.R.C.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Several dozen people rallied outside the Hamilton County Administration building Thursday calling on County Commissioners to open bidding on several Metropolitan Sewer District projects.

Build 513 supports the City of Cincinnati's Responsible Bidder Ordinance, which among other things requires contractors have a 5-year record of graduating apprentices.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel is clarifying what he says are some misconceptions about the current Metropolitan Sewer District standoff with the City of Cincinnati. Specifically, procurement policies set forth by the city which the county says are unfair and in some cases illegal.

"First, at this point, only three projects are potentially being impacted due to this issue," he says. "Several others are awaiting technical evaluation and others are scheduled to be brought forward over the next several months. Many of the projects do not have time sensitive schedules."

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners say they're willing to work with the city but when it comes to making Metropolitan Sewer District decisions, they're in charge.

In a resolution passed Wednesday the board agreed to set inclusion goals similar to the aim of the city's Responsible Bidder ordinance. The county says that ordinance is unfair. It also dislikes the city's Local Preference policy and says it's illegal.

Hamilton County will pay nearly $2 million to clean up a mercury spill last summer at two Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) sites and the Rumpke Landfill in Colerain Township.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are growing increasingly frustrated with Cincinnati leaders over which entity gets to set hiring policies for the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).

Commissioner Greg Hartmann is proposing the two sides come up with inclusion goals, incentive programs, and a way to support apprenticeship programs.

"I'm prepared to go to court if that's what it takes," says Hartmann. The local hiring policy passed by City Council is illegal and the responsible bidder program is flat out discrimination against non-union shops."

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Like water rates, sewer rates in Hamilton County are increasing.

County Commissioners approved the Metropolitan Sewer District's 2014 budget, which includes a six percent rate hike. MSD is undergoing a massive multi-billion dollar system overhaul required by a federal consent decree.

MSD had asked for a $226.7 million operating budget but the county's new utility oversight director, Dave Meyer, says the sewer district can get by with $210.7 million. Commissioners chose to follow Meyer's recommendation.

Sarah Ramsey

Cincinnati and Hamilton County have been locked in a battle for more than six months about the bidding rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) construction projects. 

The county created and owns the sewer district, so it argues state and federal procurement guidelines must be used.  But Cincinnati says since it operates MSD, and the city's bidding procedures must be followed. 

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