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State Performance Audit Finds $2M In MSD Savings

Tana Weingartner
The MSD director says $2 million in savings indicates the utility is 98 percent efficient.

The Metropolitan Sewer District could save nearly $2 million a year with a few operational changes.

Ohio State Auditor's office spokesman Ben Marrison says a performance audit suggests cutting down the size of the vehicle fleet, outsourcing dispatching, and reducing the size of the IT department. Marrison says trimming that one department could save more than $1.5 million.

"The tickets handled per IT member was 7.3 tickets a month. The national benchmark is 88 tickets a month. That's a significant difference that the auditors believe will save a significant amount of money," he says.

MSD Director Gerald Checco says the audit happened while the district was de-coupling administrative functions from the Greater Cincinnati Water Works.

"Some of the service requests went under the platform of Water Works, so when you make a ratio of service requests by staff the amount of service requests was about half of the total service requests we had."

He says a number of the IT personnel are working on projects in the district that don't qualify as service requests, including work on MSD's smart sewers.

MSD got a copy of the report before it was publicly released. Checco says it has already adopted some of the changes, including cutting the number of fleet vehicles and outsourcing dispatching. Checco says the auditor recommended reducing the fleet by 19 vehicles. He says MSD has cut 23 and is still considering cutting more.

Marrison says MSD's costs in some areas were higher than those in Columbus and Cleveland. Checco says peer cities have unique situations that should be taken into account. He says overall, cutting $2 million from a budget of more than $100 million shows MSD is already pretty efficient.

The audit also suggests Hamilton County's utility monitor needs specific goals and metrics. Marrison says the county is right to want to watch consent decree spending but the monitoring lacks focus.

"To have the monitoring is a good first step, but you need to have the goals and performance metrics to assess its effectiveness. Those are not strong at MSD. And that will help them streamline efficiencies once they set better benchmarks," Marrison says.

Marrison says the auditor's office will work with MSD to help it achieve savings but, ultimately, they're local decisions.

"We can't require them to do anything. But in this case, this entity seems very interested in making improvements to save ratepayers money and to streamline operations," he says.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio in markets including Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.