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Mayor sends warning to streetcar team

Tana Weingartner

Cincinnati's mayor and city manager will be meeting with the streetcar team this week to discuss the dwindling amount of money in the contingency fund.  If all worst case scenarios happen, the fund could have just $80,000 left in it.  It started out with more than $9 million. 

Mayor John Cranley says the message to streetcar officials John Deatrick and Chris Eilerman is this: "We need to have a team that's going to bring the streetcar in on time and under budget, or we need a new team."

The latest contingency numbers were reported Tuesday during a city council committee meeting.  It's causing concern since there's still much construction work to do before operations begin in September 2016. 

Cranley reacted to a comment from an official who said that with some luck the project would happen with the provided budget.  "That's not a good strategy.  We don't need a strategy of luck, we need a strategy of certainty, and I'm confident the city manager is going to insist that the streetcar team get ahead of this, not wait until it's too late, but get ahead of this now, find some things to take out of the budget, in order to provide the cushion necessary to bring on time and on budget," the mayor said.

Cranley campaigned against the streetcar in 2013 and promised to kill it once elected.  But six council members voted a year ago to let the project move forward.  Construction work was stopped for about a month during the debate, and that led to some additional costs, which did decrease the contingency budget. 

Council member Chris Seelbach is confident the fund will be enough.  "The contingency fund was always meant to be for additional expenses that we were not aware of, when we first allocated the resources to build the streetcar. In a worse case scenario, which I don't think is going to happen, we still have money in our contingency fund," he said.

Seelbach says he believes the city's streetcar officials will bring the project in on time and within budget.