Hamilton County Commission

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

The Cincinnati Zoo's operating levy is up for renewal this fall. It's still uncertain for how much the zoo will ask. One anti-tax group is arguing if the zoo is such a boon to the entire region, then other counties should help pay for it.

Can they do that?

Beginning next week, county employees will see their paychecks go up.

Hamilton County Commissioners Wednesday approved the first pay raises in nearly six years for non-union workers.

Board member Greg Hartmann says he's convinced the county's finances are stable enough to sustain the increases.

"The need has been demonstrated that we need to do it," he says. "Can we? Can we afford it? The conclusion that I've come to is yes, that we can. We can do it. Without raising taxes, we can do it, without layoffs. I'm convinced of that."

Hamilton County Juvenile Court

Hamilton County Commissioners are instructing County Facilities Director Ralph Linne to review Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter's courtroom and make upgrade recommendations.

While Cincinnati City Council looks into its emergency communications operations following a recent television news investigation, Hamilton County is offering one possible solution.

Commissioners Wednesday approved a resolution supporting a joint city/county emergency communications center.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann says this is a great opportunity for shared services.

Hamilton County Juvenile Court

Supporters filled Hamilton County Commission chambers Wednesday demanding more respect for Judge Tracie Hunter.

The Juvenile Court judge is locked in bitter battles with fellow Juvenile Court Judge John Williams, the county prosecutor's office and several media outlets.

Supporters like Zakiyyah Allen say Hunter's being jerked around by the county.

"It's a mockery," says Allen. "It's a slap in the face. Why is so much time, money and energy being wasted to prevent her from doing her job verses spending the money to let her do her job?"

Hamilton County Commissioners Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann are calling on the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) to pull promised dollars from the Cincinnati Streetcar project.

In a letter, the pair say that because of "significant cost overruns" they believe OKI's $4 million could be better spent elsewhere. They also request alternative options for the money's use be brought before the OKI executive council.

They write:

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.

Hamilton County Commissioners say they're not overly concerned about the county budget situation but they want to watch it closely to make sure there are no unexpected surprises.

Nine of the county's 29 general fund departments are tracking over budget. The two largest are the Sheriff's and Prosecutor's offices.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are set to review the 2013 budget Monday.

A quarter of the way through the year, administrators say the county is projecting over budget.

General fund expenditures are projected to be $5.3 million over. In a memo to commissioners, Budget Director John Bruggen attributes the overage to several departments - primarily the Sheriff and Prosecutor's offices - projecting well over budget.

Hamilton County is preparing to launch a county-wide Collaborative on Infant Mortality Rate Reduction.

Participants include: Hamilton County, City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County Public Health, Children's Hospital Medical Center, UC Health, The Christ Hospital, TriHealth, Inc., and Mercy Health Partners of Southwest Ohio.

"It is a significant collaborative of the major healthcare systems in the region all coming together under one umbrella," says Commissioner Todd Portune.

Hamilton County's infant mortality rate well exceeds the national average.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners issued the following directive on Tuesday:

By Order of the President of the United States of America, the flag of the United States will be flown at half-staff at all Hamilton County government buildings and facilities beginning today until sunset, April 20, 2013 in remembrance of those killed and injured at the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday, April 15, 2013.  

Hamilton County Commissioners are considering wage increases for county employees but first they have to find the money.

Most county employees haven't had a raise in six years.

Board President Chris Monzel wants to institute merit-based increases beginning in July. Those would be contingent on the county administrator figuring out additional revenue sources.

Monzel wants to see how the Governor's budget shakes out before taking action.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Horseshoe executives say they're excited about the casino's turnout after the first two weeks of business.

During an update to Hamilton County Commissioners, General Manager Kevin Kline reports the casino is making good on its hiring promises. He says the casino promised to hire 90 percent of its employees from the Cincinnati metro area. Currently, that number is 92 percent.

Kline says the casino is now working with downtown businesses and the convention and visitors bureau on ways to attract more people to the region.
 

Hamilton County

Hamilton County is ready to launch a program aimed at helping ex-convicts re-enter society.

The idea is to reduce the number of people who end up back in jail.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann calls the Hamilton County Community Re-entry Action Plan revolutionary.

Hamilton County Commissioners Wednesday approved a two-year policy document.

The resolution outlines the board's guiding agenda for 2013 and 2014.

Board President Chris Monzel drafted the policy and says it continues the agenda set out by his predecessor and fellow commissioner Greg Hartmann.

The document focuses on three key areas: county finances and taxes, infrastructure, and economic development.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Historic Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine is getting a new lease on life.

Hamilton County Commissioners are leasing the performance hall to 3CDC. The 40-year-deal will allow for major renovations.

Marge Hammelrath is CEO of the Memorial Hall Society. She says the organization will maintain oversight of the building and its operations.

"That's our thing that we worked for in this agreement. We wanted to make sure that the hall stays in the hands of the people and we represent {the} community as a non profit," she says.

Hamilton County Commissioners feel they were left in the dark as the city and the Port Authority worked out Cincinnati's proposed parking outsourcing plan. They're drafting a letter to the city to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Commission President Chris Monzel says, "Making sure there's no risk exposure on the county's part for  what the Port's doing with the city and vice versa if we go off and do something with the county, could that hurt the city in any way. Those type of things, I think, need to be figured out in the future."

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County is "on the move and getting stronger." That was the theme of Commission President Chris Monzel's State of the County address Thursday.

Monzel talked about the importance of keeping taxes low and how the Governor's proposed budget could benefit the ailing county stadium fund.

He says the county is also focused on infrastructure projects, especially the multi-billion dollar federally mandated sewer system upgrade. One money-saving plan involves ‘daylighting’ a stream to capture storm water rather than building a costly tunnel.

Commission supports Gov's budget

Feb 6, 2013
Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio

All three Hamilton County Commissioners are optimistic about Governor John Kasich's proposed state budget.

Republicans Chris Monzel and Greg Hartmann call the plan bold and filled with a lot of changes that could affect county government. Hartmann adds the proposed budget has the potential to be revolutionary.

Democrat Todd Portune agrees. He especially likes the plans for Medicaid.

More on the budget from Ohio Public Radio:

Sarah Ramsey

Greg Hartmann and Todd Portune were officially sworn in Wednesday to serve their new terms on Hamilton County Commission.

Hartmann repeated his mantra that these are challenging times for county government but says there are bright spots as well, like the county Land Bank.

Hamilton County Commissioners are throwing out hiring and procurement policies related to the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).

The city, which operates MSD had instituted new bidding requirements the county, which owns MSD, says were unfair- and in some cases illegal. Chief among them were apprenticeship requirements and a policy giving preference to contractors within city limits.

Commission President Chris Monzel says a working group will be formed to draft a new procurement policy.

WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners reorganized Monday with Chris Monzel assuming the presidency.

Monzel says he plans to stay the course laid out by fellow commissioner Greg Hartmann.

"Definitely public safety is the number one priority for Hamilton County. And it's something that's important and especially with the new Sheriff coming on board of what the public safety needs are. So that's number one, that's always been the number one priority to me in government," he says.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners are ordering a performance and efficiency review of the Metropolitan Sewer District.

The utility is undertaking a multi-billion dollar, federally mandated system upgrade.

Commissioner Chris Monzel proposed the review.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners have approved a 5-percent rate increase for Metropolitan Sewer District customers starting January 9.  Sewer rates have been climbing for several years to pay for a $ 3.2 billion system upgrade required to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

Commissioner Todd Portune said about 780 other local governments are in the same position at a cost of more than $500 billion.

Sewer rates in Hamilton County will likely go up again next year, though not quite as much as expected.

The Metropolitan Sewer District is recommending County Commissioners  approve a five percent increase for each of the next five years. That's less than the eight percent rates went up in 2012. Sewer District Director Tony Parrott says the smaller projected increases are possible because of reduced costs related to changes in a project along the Lower Mill Creek.

Angry employees and people who regularly use the Hamilton County Recorder's office packed Commission chambers Wednesday. They want funding restored to the Recorder's budget so he won't go through with closing the office on Friday's.

Earlier this month Wayne Coates announced the four-day work week is needed to manage the nearly 25 percent cut to his 2013 budget.

Paul Berlage with the Southwestern Ohio Land Title Association says avoiding filing delays is paramount.

If you need to file documents in Hamilton County, you'll have one fewer day per week to do so.

Pages