Metropolitan Sewer District

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

An online Enquirer report Thursday questioned whether the ongoing audit of the Metropolitan Sewer District is truly independent.  It questions if the city manager and city solicitor are playing too big a role in the review.

Some Cincinnati Council members are still asking that audits of the Metropolitan Sewer District and the city's parks department be released before votes on the budget later this month.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

A task force set up to review Metropolitan Sewer District rates has delivered its report to Hamilton County Commissioners. The committee's chair, Tom Moeller, says it worked with an eye on keeping rates affordable for customers, while meeting MSD's operational and capital needs, including improvements ordered by the consent decree.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Two plans to deal with the Little Miami Incinerator have gone down the tubes. 

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency denied a request for more time to upgrade the facility, which doesn't meet clean air standards.  Now Hamilton County's leaders are rejecting a proposal to turn solid waste into fertilizer, saying it's not economical or environmentally friendly.

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Cincinnati's city manager has appointed a special team to investigate “alleged irregularities concerning past management and procurement practices of the Metropolitan Sewer District.”

Harry Black had asked the city solicitor to investigate any allegations, and he has now decided an independent review is in order.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Update 2:40 p.m.

Hamilton County Commission President Chris Monzel says “The city’s repeated and flagrant disregard of its obligations stated very clearly under the 2014 Federal Court Order made today’s court action necessary. “We respectfully ask the court to enforce its previous order and allow Hamilton County to bring accountability and transparency which are so badly needed in MSD operations.”

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Chris Monzel says the state of the county is strong.  The Hamilton County commission president delivered the annual State of the County address Thursday. 

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost is launching a special audit of the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Hamilton County leaders have strong words about how Cincinnati runs the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).  Their remarks came after an Enquirer report alleging mismanagement and possible overspending. 

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

The Lower Mill Creek Partial Remedy Project (LMCPR) is already over budget, according to Hamilton County’s utility monitor.

Dave Meyer told the Hamilton County Commissioners Wednesday the original price tag for the project is at least $13 million short of what it will actually take to complete it. 

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.

Bill Rinehart / WVXU

Hamilton County Commissioners have approved the 2016 operating budget for the Metropolitan Sewer District. 

The budget delays any rate increase until the middle of next year, after an affordability task force delivers its findings.

Sarah Ramsey

By the middle of the month, the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) will have options and costs for what to do with a waste incinerator at its Little Miami Treatment plant.  

The agency is working with federal and state regulators on alternatives.  

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

The latest battle between Cincinnati and Hamilton County concerning the Metropolitan Sewer District is over billing.  

MSD owes the Greater Cincinnati Water Works more than $2 million for billing services and it has not made a payment since June.  

The Metropolitan Sewer District is asking for an extension to meet new federal standards on a human waste incinerator.

MSD leaders and Cincinnati's Mayor traveled to Washington D.C. this week to discuss the issue with the U.S. EPA and members of Ohio's legislative delegation.

Sarah Ramsey

Cincinnati and Hamilton County have about two years left to complete the first phase of a program to reduce combined sewer overflows in the region.  It is part of federal consent decree finalized in 2006.  

There are 23 projects that must be completed by the end of 2018.  Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) Director Gerald Checco updated a council committee on the work Tuesday.  

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials are facing a 2018 deadline to decide the future of the Metropolitan Sewer District.  

A 50-year agreement that began in 1968 between the city and the county will have to be extended, modified or ended.  

City of Cincinnati

Cincinnati's Metropolitan Sewer District director Tony Parrott is taking a new job in Kentucky. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Tuesday, announced Parrott as the new executive director of Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County commissioners are downplaying Cincinnati city manager Harry Black's announcement that Greater Cincinnati Water Works will no longer share certain administrative functions with the Metropolitan Sewer District. 

Sarah Ramsey / WVXU

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann said they are committed to fixing the broken relationship between the city and county concerning the Metropolitan Sewer District.  Both spoke after an hour long meeting Monday at City Hall.  

Hartmann said for MSD to be successful, the county has to have a coordinated approach with the city.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

It's official: Metropolitan Sewer District rates will go up 5.5 percent next year.

Sewer rates have been increasing every year to pay for the multi-billion dollar federally mandated system overhaul. Hamilton County Commissioners Wednesday approved MSD's 2015 budget despite fresh conflict with the city over the Lick Run project.

The county's utility oversight director says 5.5 percent breaks down this way:

The 2014 quarterly bill is $110.71 for a typical single family residential customer (or $442.84 per year)

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

A multi-million dollar sewer project is unexpectedly on hold and that has a lot of Hamilton County and Metropolitan Sewer District officials scratching their heads.

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black did something no one was expecting on Dec. 5. He sent a letter to companies who'd bid to do work on the Lick Run Valley Conveyance System project, terminating negotiations. That came as a major surprise to Ulliman Schutte Construction, which had already been awarded the job and signed contracts with the Metropolitan Sewer District. 

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

After the first of two public hearings on the Metropolitan Sewer District's 2015 budget, one thing is clear: there's still a lot of animosity between the utility and Hamilton County Commissioners.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

As Hamilton County Commissioners are faced with raising sewer rates again, they're wondering if there's another way to find some relief for ratepayers.

Commission president Chris Monzel says "it's staggering, the amount of money that we have to put into this every year."

He's referring to the multi-billion dollar federal mandate to upgrade the county's sewer system.

Commissioner Greg Hartmann agrees. "Ratepayers are just getting absolutely soaked," he says.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Hamilton County sewer rates could go up 5.5 percent next year. That's the recommendation from county administrators.

Rates have been increasing for several years and are expected to keep doing so to pay for the multi-billion dollar, federally mandated sewer system upgrade. Last year, commissioners approved a six percent increase.

The Cincinnati Bengals are a step closer to getting that new scoreboard. Hamilton County is reviewing bids to replace the scoreboard and control room.

County finance specialist Erica Riehl expects the total will be about $10 million based on bids the county received.

The county is required to pay for the upgrade, however, under a bargain struck last year, the Bengals are chipping in $2.5 million.

The contract will likely be awarded by the end of the year.

Tana Weingartner / WVXU

Water is a big topic these days. There's a scarcity of it out West. Algae blooms shut down Toledo's drinking water system earlier this month, and Cincinnati remains on the leading edge of water technology. But those are all obvious. We see or hear about them frequently.  WVXU went looking behind-the-scenes at a hidden aspect of our water delivery system - something thousands of Cincinnatians pass each day but never truly see.

Sarah Ramsey

The Hamilton County Commissioners are reemphasizing a ruling from a federal magistrate in June that the county gets to make the rules for the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), and the city of Cincinnati as the operator must follow them.  

The commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday outlining county policies and directives for MSD that have been given in the past and adding some new ones.

Hamilton County Commission President Chris Monzel:

The City of Cincinnati is objecting to allegations levied by Hamilton County regarding the management of the Metropolitan Sewer District.

In a letter from interim city manager Scott Stiles to county administrator Christian Sigman, the city says it is "extremely disappointed" by the county's "adversarial approach."

Hamilton County Commissioners say cost overruns on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects are too high and are indicating leadership is the problem.

In other words: MSD director Tony Parrott needs to go.

In a letter to interim Cincinnati city manager Scott Stiles, Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman says "major cost overruns within several federal Consent Decree projects is merely a symptom of larger management issues within MSD."

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