Metropolitan Sewer District

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. 

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners continue to take public comments on the proposed 2014 Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) budget.

MSD is asking for a $226.7 million operating budget but the county's new utility oversight director says the sewer district can get by with $210.7 million.

What both sides DO agree on, is a six percent rate increase.

MSD's Jack Rennekamp  says, "the average residential customer... will see his/her quarterly annualized bill go from from $188.15 to $199.45."

Sarah Ramsey

Two Cincinnati Council Members are calling for the city's responsible bidder ordinance to be repealed because they say it is holding up needed Metropolitan Sewer District projects. 

Council Members Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman discussed the issue Monday during a Job Growth Committee meeting.

“The only solution this Council has is to repeal the responsible bidder ordinance,” Smitherman said.  “Then try to normalize our relationships with our county partners by talking with them offline in a tone that is understandable”

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Could a Metropolitan Sewer District stalemate between Cincinnati and Hamilton County be coming to an end?

The sides have been at odds over city-enacted hiring policies. The county specifically doesn't like a responsible bidder provision requiring contractors to graduate apprentices (at least one per year for five years).

Councilman Chris Seelbach is proposing a solution he thinks the county will like. He says he's willing to throw out the apprentice graduation requirement in favor of an incentive program.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials continue to hash out a compromise on several hiring and bidding policies related to the Metropolitan Sewer District.

An August 1 deadline has come and gone, meaning a city moratorium on the policies has expired. That led County Commissioners Wednesday to halt the bidding process for an upcoming project.

Sarah Ramsey

Hundreds of water and sewer utility managers from the across the country are in Cincinnati this week.  They're here for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies 2013 summer conference.  
Some topics being discussed include innovative management, financing and a more resilient business model for public utilities.

Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District Executive Director Tony Parrott said the industry is experiencing a rebirth.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are expected to vote Wednesday morning on re-opening the bidding process on some Metropolitan Sewer District projects.

The board initiated the moratorium to force renewed talks between the county and the city, which runs the sewer district. At issue are several city initiated hiring policies and practices the county dislikes, and in some cases says are illegal.

The county is re-opening the bid process following a city council vote two weeks ago to suspend the hiring policies until August.

Sarah Ramsey

City and county officials now have about five weeks to try to work out a compromise on several Metropolitan Sewer District policies (MSD).

Council voted unanimously Wednesday to suspend its local hiring policy until August 1. Until then the sides will try to reach an agreement on it and a portion of a responsible bidder policy that requires apprenticeships.

Sarah Ramsey

Just days after announcing a compromise, county and city leaders could be heading back to square one.

Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel had planned to lead a vote Wednesday to reopen the bidding process for Metropolitan Sewer District projects. The board instituted a moratorium several weeks ago when Cincinnati City Council refused to scrap its local hiring and responsible bidder requirements.

Sarah Ramsey

They've had their differences, but it looks like the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County are making progress on a plan to provide an adequate local workforce for the $3 billion project to modernize the Metropolitan Sewer District.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are ordering the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to suspend work until the City of Cincinnati changes a new hiring policy.

The County owns MSD but it's operated by the city.

On Wednesday, commissioners passed a resolution stopping work on all projects affected by the city's policy. The county argues the policy, which requires an apprenticeship program, unfairly excludes many non-union companies from bidding for construction jobs.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners still aren't happy with the City of Cincinnati's responsible bidder program for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) construction projects.

The board is drafting replacement language and, to show he means business, commissioner Chris Monzel is considering a restraining order forcing the city not to award any MSD contracts until the issue is resolved.

The key issue is a clause requiring companies bidding for sewer work to have certified apprenticeship programs with graduates.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners want Cincinnati to change some language in the city's hiring policies for companies bidding on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) construction projects.

The city wants all construction firms to have apprenticeship programs.

Groups like the Greater Cincinnati Building Construction Trades Council like the plan. However, some companies say it's not feasible for several reasons, including that apprentice programs for some specialized trades simply don't exist.

Sarah Ramsey

Cincinnati Council is making changes to a responsible bidder ordinance it enacted nearly a year ago.  

It's designed to make sure job training is a part of major contracts awarded by the Metropolitan Sewer District.  

Council Member Chris Seelbach said the purpose hasn't changed.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

The EPA says every year 14 billion gallons of wastewater is dumped into the Mill Creek. This is because  Cincinnati's sewer system is too old to handle the stormwater runoff and it mixes with sewage in one series of pipes.

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