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Two council members want to scrap law that's halting MSD projects

Sarah Ramsey

Two Cincinnati Council Members are calling for the city's responsible bidder ordinance to be repealed because they say it is holding up needed Metropolitan Sewer District projects. 

Council Members Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman discussed the issue Monday during a Job Growth Committee meeting.

“The only solution this Council has is to repeal the responsible bidder ordinance,” Smitherman said.  “Then try to normalize our relationships with our county partners by talking with them offline in a tone that is understandable”

Smitherman said then perhaps the two sides could with an agreement to the MSD projects forward.

The city's responsible bidder law requires companies bidding on MSD project worth more than $400,000 to have an apprenticeship program to train future workers. 

Hamilton County Commissioners, who own the sewer district, say the law is unfair and won't approve any new projects awarded using responsible bidder. 

The city manages the system under a 1968 agreement.  City Solicitor John Curp says that's where the legal issue begins.  The city argues its bidding rules apply.  The county says state bidding rules apply.

Curp said if the policy makers do not reach a solution, the matter could be in court.

“We have deadlines to comply with,” Curp said.  “So at any time any of those parties could bring the compliance with the court order into question and we could end up in Federal Court.”

City Council Member Chris Seelbach and County Commission President Chris Monzel have been negotiating on the issue, but to date have not reached a compromise.

MSD is mandated by a federal consent decree to reduce sewer overflows into local waterways to protect the environment.  The various construction projects are planned for several years and have a price tag of more than $3 billion.