Hamilton County Commission

Hamilton County administrators are continuing the process to take over ownership of the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital site.

Assistant County Administrator Jeff Aluotto says boundary, environmental and other surveys are nearly complete.

"We are looking to do this right," says Aluotto. "We're looking to do this in a measured way. In a prudent way. This is less from our perspective about what is out there in 2015 and 2016 and more about how we position this to be a strategic center for county government in 2020, 2025, 2030, moving out."

Ann Thompson / WVXU

Hamilton County and the Bengals have a reached a deal that could pave the way for luring General Electric to the Banks.

The county announced Thursday the Bengals have agreed to waive height restrictions that would've halted a office space large enough to house General Electric's new Southwest Ohio Global Operations headquarters and a planned apartment building in exchange for six items.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann says the deal will allow the county and city to aggressively bid for GE.

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.

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Hamilton County is moving in the right direction and continuing to be strong despite facing challenging times. That's how Commission President Chris Monzel led off his 2014 State of the County address Thursday.

The speech focused on the three main priorities from last year's address: county infrastructure, finances and economic development.

Monzel pointed out the county is looking at how to best utilize its building stock and also take advantage of its newest acquisition - the former Mercy Mount Airy hospital site.

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."

Hamilton County Commissioners could vote Wednesday morning on whether to accept the offer of the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital.

Catholic Health Partners is offering to give it to the county for use as a new crime lab but that plan's in limbo over a proposal to move the Board of Elections there as well.

The elections board is split on the idea. Those in favor say it makes financial sense. Those opposed say moving the board out of downtown will restrict access to early voting.

The county leases the board's current downtown location.

Hamilton County Commissioners continue to weigh an offer to turn the former Mercy Mount Airy hospital into a new crime lab.

Catholic Health Partners is willing to give the facility to the county for free and the county coroner says the cost to renovate the old hospital would be a lot less than building a whole new crime lab. To make the deal cost effective, however, the county wants to move the Board of Elections out there as well.

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.

*Update*  The Hamilton County Tax Levy Review Committee is recommending the Developmental Disabilities Levy be put on the May ballot as a flat renewal. The TLRC also recommends the agency implement the consultant's recommendations listed below.

Hamilton County Commissioners will hear more details Monday about the upcoming Developmental Disabilities Levy.

The Tax Levy Review Committee makes its recommendation to the board Monday morning.

A consultant's report on the Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services levy is recommending the tax rate remain unchanged when it comes up for a vote in May. The agency has requested its levy rate remain flat.

The report will be officially presented Monday to the Tax Levy Review Committee.

The consulting group also recommends the agency:

The initial report on Hamilton County's facilities needs is in and it paints a picture of aging buildings and deferred maintenance. With some offices bursting at the seams and others only half full, the county is looking at ways to consolidate operations.

One possibility is converting the former Mercy Mt. Airy hospital to hold the coroner, board of elections and some sheriff's offices.

Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Todd Portune  says while this may seem like a good deal, the county needs to keep an eye on costs.

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.

For every $100,000 worth of property value, Hamilton County homeowners will get about $46 back on their tax bills next year.

The Cincinnati Museum Center has some work to do before Hamilton County Commissioners will put a requested levy before taxpayers.

The board Wednesday opted to take the recommendation of the Tax Levy Review Committee and postpone any decision on the levy request until after July. The Museum Center has until then to come up with a plan and funds for repairing and restoring Union Terminal.

Hamilton County Commissioners plan to vote Wednesday on the size of the property tax rebate homeowners will receive next year.

The PTR was promised to taxpayers when the sales tax was increased to fund the new Reds and Bengals stadiums.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann is floating a plan that would fund the PTR at $12 million.

"This year the property tax rebate was $10 million distributed to people that own property in Hamilton County," says Hartmann. "Next year it will be $12 million, which will be divvied up. It's about $42 per $100,000 of (property) value."

Hamilton County Commissioners approved the 2014 general fund budget Wednesday.

The $204.1 million spending plan was nearly unchanged from the plan presented by county administration. The only difference being redirecting $6.65 million in indigent care levy funds from the UC Medical Center to cover a gap in the Sheriff's inmate care budget.

The budget Hamilton County Commissioners vote on later this week will likely look a lot like the one proposed by county administration.

Board President Chris Monzel is suggesting just one change. The proposed budget calls for cutting $6.65 million in indigent care levy funds from the UC Medical Center and using it to cover a gap in the Sheriff's inmate care budget.

In his proposal, Monzel writes:

Hamilton County Commissioners are slated to vote next week on the 2014 general fund budget. Board President Chris Monzel will present some adjustments Monday to the current proposal and he's hoping for universal agreement.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann says what likely won't be in the budget is a response to last weeks appeal from the county coroner for a new crime lab.

Updated 2pm

When out-of-towners stay in are hotels, Hamilton County benefits from the transit occupancy tax.

The tourist tax was used to build the Cincinnati and Sharonville convention centers. A large portion is still used to cover the debt service on those projects and the rest goes to the Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote tourism.

Monday, the County Administration laid out options to County Commissioners for pulling back some of those revenues and using them elsewhere.

Hamilton County Commissioners are unanimous - the 2014 budget won't include tax increases.

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.

Michael Keating

Hamilton County Commissioners could take the first steps Wednesday toward balancing the stadium fund for the next five years.

The plan is much the same as last year, but involves a different bank and a three-year deal. Essentially the board would take out an insurance policy with PNC Bank to cover the bulk of the debt and fund what's left from county reserves.

The Banks Partnership

Hamilton County Commissioners are giving their approval to the next phase of the Banks project. The board approved the plan Wednesday.

Project counsel Tom Gableman says Phase II-A will create 706 construction jobs.

"In terms of wages, that's about $30 million," he says. "And the total economic impact, both direct and indirect, is about $115 million."

Announced earlier this month, Phase II-A includes 305 apartments and 21,000 square feet of retail space. Gabelman estimates retail employment will create 345 jobs.

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.

An outside healthcare consultant will help Hamilton County determine if any of its property taxes can be reduced now that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is law.

County Commissioners want to know if some things paid for with local property taxes will be covered by federal dollars.

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

The committee that reviews county tax levies is recommending Hamilton County Commissioners place a flat renewal of the Cincinnati Zoo levy on the November ballot.

That's a win for zoo as that's what it had requested.

The committee says it believes the Zoo wouldn't be able to operate at its "current high level of effectiveness without the levy funds." 

The county's Tax Levy Review Committee is also recommending the Zoo continue to look for ways to be less reliant on county taxpayers.

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.

Pages