Hamilton County Commission

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The interim Hamilton County Administrator can now take the interim out of his title.  Commissioners voted Wednesday morning to appoint Jeff Aluotto to the position he's been serving in since April when Christian Sigman resigned.

Political types on both sides agree – the race for Hamilton County commissioner between Republican Dennis Joseph Deters and Democrat Denise Driehaus is the most fiercely contested and most costly race this year for any county office.

And, if the polling that is said to be out there is correct, it may also be the closest contest, the one that keeps everyone up late on election night waiting for an outcome – quite possibly into the wee hours of the morning after.

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There are two seats up for election on the Board of Hamilton County Commissioners

Two of the three seats on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners are up for election this year; and at stake is the balance of power between the majority Republicans and the lone Democrat on the commission.

The race between Democratic state representative Denise Driehaus, who is term-limited out of the legislature, and Republican Dennis Joseph Deters, a former Colerain Township trustee who was appointed commissioner when Greg Hartmann resigned in December, is the one that has drawn most of the money and attention this fall.

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There are two seats up for election next month on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil is asking for a $7 million budget increase for 2017. He says the dollars are needed to cover union salary increases and back pay approved by county commissioners, begin a three-year radio replacement, and hire six corporals to help supervise new coverage areas. 

Seal of Hamilton County
Provided / Hamilton County

Four people will be interviewed soon for the position of Hamilton County Administrator, and three of them are from the area or have a local tie.

County Commissioners have scheduled interviews with the candidates over the next two weeks.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

The Hamilton County administrator is leaving the position months earlier than expected. 

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Update Friday 11:00 a.m.:

Dennis Deters has been sworn into office. Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler administered the oath of office.

Colerain Township

Colerain Township Trustee Dennis Deters can use the middle name “Joseph” on the ballot when he runs for Hamilton County Commissioner this year, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted ruled Wednesday.

Husted broke a tie vote taken at the Dec. 21 meeting of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

WVXU-FM

  WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with news director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday about the possibility of a divisive Republican primary for Hamilton County commissioner, with two Cincinnati council members, Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman, looking like they will get into the race. 

Politics is a funny business.

Two people can be pals and political allies, and then, after the next sunrise, became political rivals, eyeing each other warily and ready to slug it out before the voters if necessary.

It happened this past week.

The allies-turned-combatants: Two Cincinnati city council members, Republican Charlie Winburn and independent Christopher Smitherman, both of whom pulled petitions Tuesday to run in the March 15 GOP primary for Hamilton County Commissioner.

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann’s sudden decision not to run for a third-term next year leaves the county Republican party scrambling for a replacement.

The filing deadline for candidates in the March 15 primary is Dec. 16 – 23 days from now.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners took a routine action during their weekly staff meeting Monday. But the Board is upset at just how routine this particular action has become.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Correction 10/27/2015:

The request from the Sheriff’s office is not a supplemental appropriation.  Hamilton County Budget Director John Bruggen says all of the vehicles are within the capital spending authority approved by the Commission.

Original story 10/26/2015:  

Hamilton County Commissioners are concerned about the number of supplemental funding requests coming from the Sheriff's Office.  Commissioner Todd Portune says it seems like every week there's a request for one or two new vehicles.

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The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is currently deliberating the proposed 2016 General Fund Budget submitted by the county administrator. The budget funds the county'’s government services, including the Sheriff'’s Department, the Prosecutor’'s office and courts system.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Hamilton County's Heroin Task Force has released a strategic plan to address the drug epidemic in the region. 

Commission President Greg Hartmann says coalition members will work on several fronts including interdiction, treatment, and prevention. 

Provided / Hamilton County Commission

The replacement of seats at Great American Ball Park earlier this year came in under budget. That's in part because the project made a little money. 

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are deciding how to pay for emergency communications as current revenue sources shrink.  Before they vote, they want to hear public input on a possible solution.

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners approved funding Wednesday for the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) to work on design alternatives for part of the Lick Run project. But they aren't happy about it.

WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with news director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about next year's battle for two Hamilton County commission seats; and the Cincinnati Reds' Todd Frazier's come-from-behind win the the All-Star Game vote. 

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners officially voted Wednesday to 'close the book' on the idea of using the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital for a new crime lab.

Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco says she's not satisfied.

"We're very disappointed that the appropriate people weren't brought together to make just the retrofit happen for the crime lab and the morgue in such a way that the current hospital spaces could have been used without costing the tax payers a whole lot of money," Sammarco says.

Hamilton County / Provided

After more than a year of waiting for an answer, the group which owns the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital site is looking for new options.  

Mercy Health offered to give Hamilton County the former hospital building. The idea was to renovate part of the facility into a crime lab, replacing the county's current cramped outdated one.

But this week, commissioners agreed to decline the offer.

Spokeswoman Nanette Bentley says Mercy Health is already weighing other options.

Hamilton County / Provided

Hamilton County Commissioners are set to turn down an offer to take over the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital. They'd been considering it to house a new crime lab and possibly other county offices.

While the coroner's office has been in the news a lot lately for being cramped and outdated, it's not the only department with space needs. The county is reviewing its entire building stock.

Even though the former Mercy Mt. Airy site would have been free, renovations would have cost $80 - $100 million. Hamilton County Commissioners say that's just too high.

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are poised to reject an offer to take over the former Mercy Mt. Airy site.

"With budgetary constraints," says commission president Greg Hartmann, "I just don't think that our move to Mt. Airy is going to be fiscally prudent. I don't think that we can afford to invest $80-100 million, absent a new revenue source, in that facility. Today, I think that we should move on from Mt. Airy."

Commissioners Hartmann and Monzel say even though the building would be free, the renovation costs are too high.

Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel isn't ready to give up on the idea of turning part of the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital into a new crime lab.

Last week, commission president Greg Hartmann said a vote was likely soon and indicated it didn't look promising.

Monzel says he's trying to find a public/private partnership to make it happen.

Seal of Hamilton County
Provided / Hamilton County

Hamilton County is preparing to create a Heroin Task Force aimed at curbing the rapidly increasing number of users and overdoses.

Commission President Greg Hartmann announced the effort during his annual State of the County address Thursday.

"Nine thousand heroin addicts came through our jail in 2013," says Hartmann. "There's seven heroin overdoses per day in the City of Cincinnati. I've begun discussions in Columbus. I'm also going to invite the City and our public health experts."

His office later released the following goals for 2015:

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Commission President Greg Hartmann delivers the State of Hamilton County address Thursday.

He says the county's finances are doing well, thanks to several years of tight budgets, and cuts.

"Our balance sheet is as good as it has been in the last decade," says Hartmann.  "I think that we're proud of that. It's involved shared sacrifice by many employees of the county."

He also plans to recognize some of those county workers.

Amy Spasoff / Memorial Hall

Update: 02/04/2015

Over-the-Rhine's historic Memorial Hall is ready to undergo major renovations. Hamilton County Commissioners today agreed to enter a development agreement with 3CDC to update and operate the 600-seat performance hall.

All three commissioners voted 'yes' on the project, which includes a $1.5 million contribution from the county.

 

Original post date: 02/02/2015 3:27 p.m.

Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine is poised to undergo renovations if Hamilton County Commissioners sign off on the project.

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