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Getting Ready For MSD Agreement Negotiations

Sarah Ramsey

Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials are facing a 2018 deadline to decide the future of the Metropolitan Sewer District.  

A 50-year agreement that began in 1968 between the city and the county will have to be extended, modified or ended.  

A city council committee got an update on the issue Tuesday.

Council Member Christopher Smitherman expressed his opinion during a council committee meeting.

“I am not, and I would say that my colleagues are not interested in a divorce,” Smitherman said.  “We’re interested in a continued marriage with our county partners around MSD.”

Smitherman said city and county officials are talking internally, but so far he is not seeing any conversations between the two sides.  He said he does not want to wait until the last minute for something to happen.  

As for the divorce option, city attorney Terry Nestor said that could also be complicated.

“Both sides have to be very aware that they’re working within the legal framework of the consent decree, and how the consent decree is going to impact you know what is going to happen within those jurisdictions going forward is something that both sides have to be aware of as they figure out what is going to happen in 2018,” Nestor said.

The city operates MSD but the county is responsible for setting rates and determining the agency's budget.  The relationship has been rocky in recent years.  

The city contends it still owns the assets it brought to the sewer district in 1968.  But the county has argued it now owns the sewer district's pipes and treatment plants, and the city is just the contractual operator of those assets.

A federal consent decree to overhaul the system could complicate discussions. Since both sides are party to the agreement, a legal separation could be almost impossible.