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Commissioners not bothered by Water Works-MSD split

Tana Weingartner

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. 

Black sent a memo to the mayor and council this week saying the savings weren't what were originally promised.

Commission president Greg Hartmann agrees.  “MSD has claimed savings from this merger in the past two years of $10 million.  We at the county have repeatedly requested documentation of those savings; how they were being tracked.  But those requests have not been responded to.”

Hartmann asked the county administrator and MSD monitors to look at the savings and what effect de-coupling the two entities will have on ratepayers.

Other commissioners, including Todd Portune, are echoing his concerns. “When this was first announced several years ago, that the city was looking to merge the two, I raised a number of questions,” Portune says.

“Why was that important and what savings would that generate?  And where would that leave us in terms of upper management at MSD if they ever became de-coupled?”

Portune calls the original coupling a "unilateral action" by the city.  “Now here we are years later after that work was done and the city’s now making another unilateral decision and we’re going to have to pick up the pieces.”

Portune says he wants to know what the management structure at MSD will be like, and if Water Works will get to keep the employees with the most experience.

Commissioner Chris Monzel says he had reservations from the start over the projected savings.  “I’d heard folks within the departments having concerns on how it would work out, and just the frustrations that were happening over the past couple of years in that kind of system of both MSD and Water Works sharing an organization structure.”

Monzel says the break up doesn't really surprise him.  But he says he doesn't think it will affect other plans to share services between the county and the city.

“MSD, by itself, is a shared project.  We’re also trying to look at other opportunities," he says. 

Monzel says he's been working with Council member Amy Murray and Mayor Cranley to come up with some quick ideas that utilize both county and city services.

Monzel says both sides should strive to share services and cut costs to benefit taxpayers.