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December 18th, 2013 By German Lopez | News | Posted In: News, Development, Infrastructure, City Council

City Keeps Controversial MSD Contracting Rules

Democratic council members stand together against repeal of "responsible bidder" law

city hallCity Hall - Photo: Jesse Fox

City Council on Wednesday dismissed legislation that would have repealed controversial contracting rules for Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects.

Council's decision could put Cincinnati and Hamilton County on a collision course over rules governing a federally mandated revamp of the city's sewer system. The city and county jointly manage MSD.

Democrats David Mann, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young voted to move the repeal ordinance back to committee. Republicans Amy Murray and Charlie Winburn, Charterite Kevin Flynn and Independent Christopher Smitherman voted to keep the ordinance in front of council.

Hamilton County commissioners previously halted most of the $3.2 billion, 15-year sewer revamp in protest of the city's "responsible bidder" law.

As long as the hold remains in place, the city and county risk violating a federal mandate to revamp Cincinnati's inadequate sewer system.

The city rules require contractors to follow stricter standards for apprenticeship programs, which unionized and nonunion businesses use to train workers in crafts, such as electrical work or plumbing. The rules also ask contractors to put 10 cents for each hour of labor into a pre-apprenticeship fund that will help train newcomers in different crafts.

Supporters of the law claim it will foster local jobs and local job training. Opponents claim the law favors unions and places a costly burden on MSD contractors.

The city already gave various concessions to resolve its conflict with the county, including exemptions for small businesses and contracts worth less than $400,000. But the county has so far refused to budge.

Smitherman, who opposes the law, argued the issue will end up in court and the city will lose.

"What was passed on May 1 is not constitutional," he said.

But the city's law department says the law is legal and could be defended in court.

Seelbach, who spearheaded the law, said he's in talks with Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann to bring both parties into mediation and resolve the conflict.

"I'm asking for some more time," he said.

 
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