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Sewer rates will go up, county and city still at odds on Lick Run

Tana Weingartner

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) The proposed quarterly bill will be $116.80 (or $467.20 per year) Increase is $6.09 per quarter or $24.36 per year.

Commission president Chris Monzel says the county will likely, this week, ask a federal court to clarify an earlier ruling on whether the city or county has the ultimate say on sewer projects.  

"I think we should get some clarification because I think it's important that we understand our roles and responsibilities," says Monzel. "I believe the city has a different interpretation of things than the county."

The county believes the ruling says it is completely in charge. The city has a more narrow reading of the opinion.

City Manager Harry Black halted the Lick Run project December 5, just as work was about ready to begin. He says re-bidding the project will save money. County Commissioners want to see his numbers.

Other communities are speaking out

Norwood's mayor isn't happy with Cincinnati's decision to re-bid the Lick Run project. Tom Williams issued a statement Wednesday saying that move affects ratepayers beyond the city.

Norwood stands with Hamilton County and supports their efforts to find creative and cost effective ways to comply with the federal consent decree. Norwood also supports the County’s efforts to obtain Federal funding for the project and to avoid unnecessary rate increases. “The citizens of Norwood and the rest of the MSD shouldn’t be on the hook for Cincinnati’s mismanagement of this project,” said Mayor Tom Williams. “They can handle their business however they please, but this is a lot bigger than the City of Cincinnati.” The City of Norwood encourages other municipalities and townships to voice their disapproval of Cincinnati’s actions.