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County and city sparring over hiring language for sewer work

Tana Weingartner

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.

Companies without apprentices say they're being called "unqualified" for sewer projects despite having done business with MSD for decades.

Commissioners want the hiring practice changed but, so far, the city isn't budging... and that's slowing down construction. Commissioners Greg Hartmann and Chris Monzel say the county and city need to find a resolution soon.

"This is just limited to MSD," says Commissioner Todd Portune. "If the city really believes in this, why aren't they applying the same rules to the MSD utility work on the streetcar program. Why aren't they applying the same rules to other contracting (like) street and bridge repair."

Commissioners say they'd like to settle the issue in the next seven days. Commissioners argue they have final say on Metropolitan Sewer District hiring practices because while the city runs the utility, it's owned by the county.