Hamilton County Commission

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.

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.

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