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Ohio Legislators Haven't Approved Sewer District Pension Shift

Bill Rinehart
A joint session of council and the county commission in August approved the commitment letter.

The 1968 agreement for the operation of the Metropolitan Sewer District may need to be extended. The replacement agreement hinges on a measure that hasn't been approved by Ohio lawmakers.

Cincinnati council and Hamilton County commissioners signed a commitment letter last August, moving MSD operations to the county. MSD employees would work for the county, but would still be part of the city's retirement system. Commission President Todd Portune says that needs to be approved by Ohio lawmakers. They haven't acted yet, but Portune isn't worried.

"They have drafted legislative language that is ready to be put into a bill. Bottom line is, I guess I would say we're continuing to move forward," Portune says.

Local representatives will meet with Ohio legislators next week to talk about the change. That's one part of the agreement to transition operations from the city to the county.

Portune says he won't predict what lawmakers will do. "It hasn't been rejected in Columbus. There are a couple of elements that progress is being made on. The talks have been ongoing. Nothing has been rejected. All of that is progress."

Earlier this week, City Manager Harry Black wrote a memo to council saying the original 1968 agreement will be extended if the legislature can't make requested changes before April 30. Under that agreement the city operates MSD.

The commitment letter was negotiated with the help of the federal judge who also oversaw a plan to save the retirement fund and who worked on the MSD consent decree. It would last for 45 years.

The arrangement would also create a five member citizens board to handle major policy decisions, including the selection of a director. Three members would be appointed by the commission and two by city council.

Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio; and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.