City Council on June 24 turned down a compromise between Cincinnati and Hamilton County that would have ended the county’s funding hold on sewer projects, which would have allowed the projects to move forward.
The city and county will now have to rework the terms of the compromise or risk keeping mandated sewer projects unfunded.
The compromise was announced June 21. As a condition, Councilman Chris Seelbach was to convince City Council to repeal so-called “local hire” and “local preference” rules, which require a certain percentage of contractors’ workforce be local residents. But City Council declined to repeal the rules, effectively cutting the compromise short.
On the county’s side, Commissioner Chris Monzel was supposed to ask the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to repeal a hold on Metropolitan Sewer District projects.
The city, county and their partners are also supposed to work on changing the city’s responsible bidder ordinance before new rules are officially implemented on Aug.
Under the current language, the ordinance forces MSD contractors to establish specifically accredited apprenticeship programs and put money — based on labor costs — toward a pre-apprenticeship fund.
The city argues the programs will help create local jobs and train local workers, but the county claims the rules favor unions and impose extra costs on MSD projects.
Meanwhile, MSD is facing pressure from the federal government to comply with a mandate to retrofit and replace Cincinnati’s sewers. MSD estimates the project will cost $3.2 billion over 15 to 20 years, making it one of the largest infrastructure projects in Cincinnati’s history.
But the project was effectively halted by the funding hold, which forced the city and county to hastily work out a compromise.