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City, County To Meet With Judge On Sewer District Separation

Tana Weingartner

A federal judge will get an update on the future of the Metropolitan Sewer District Wednesday morning. Cincinnati and Hamilton County representatives will go before Judge Michael Barrett to discuss the process to replace a 1968 agreement that had the city operate the utility, anc the county made budget decisions.

Commission President Todd Portune says it's taking a lot longer than expected. "There are some elements that require action by the state legislature and by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. Those have not been finalized yet."

The city and county agreed last August to, in part, put MSD employees on the county's payroll, but keep them in the city's retirement fund.

Portune says Judge Barrett could order an extension of the original 1968 agreement that gave control to the city. "I don't think the judge wants to do that. He certainly does not want to have to be in a position where he is ordering one side to do certain things and another side to do other things. He'd much rather prefer that we come in, unified in agreement and he just simply puts his stamp of approval on that."

Portune says the continued lack of a new agreement has complicated planning Phase 2 of the consent decree. That's the federal order to upgrade MSD systems.

Hamilton County Administrator Jeff Aluotto presented the county's proposal for Phase 2 in May. MSD's Interim Director Diana Christy introduced an alternative plan to Cincinnati council's Major Projects Committee on Tuesday afternoon. Regulators, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio EPA, and the US Department of Justice must receive the Phase 2 proposal by June 30.

Portune says there shouldn't be multiple Phase 2 proposals. "All of what we present needs to be judged and ultimately approved by the regulators. There should be one list presented to the regulators. We don't need to confuse the matter by having a separate project list by MSD, a separate list by the county, and a separate list coming from the city. That's what our goal continues to be."

He expects much of Wednesday's discussion with Judge Barrett to center around Phase 2.

Christy says city and county employees are still reviewing each other's plans. "There are a lot of things we agree on and our hope is that there will be a joint submittal by the end of the month."

She expects MSD will hold public hearings after a proposal is submitted to regulators.