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Council Funds Columbia Parkway Repairs Over District 5 HQ

columbia parkway landslide 2
Jay Hanselman
A landslide off Columbia Parkway in March 2019.

Cincinnati City Council voted Wednesday to fully fund the $17 million of repairs to stop landslides along parts of Columbia Parkway.
The decision came after a marathon meeting that was recessed for more than two hours so enough council members could be in the chamber to vote on the compromise that was put together as the meeting dragged on. A final vote on the funding didn't happen until after 9 p.m.

The $17 million for the Columbia Parkway project is a combination of $9.4 million that had been set aside to build a new District 5 police facility, and $7.6 million of borrowed money.  The city will issue bonds that will be repaid with revenues from a property tax increase approved in 2018 for debt service.

Earlier in the meeting, the council was unanimous in supporting $10.8 million for the project. But there was division on the remaining $6.2 million needed for the work.

Four members had voted to use $6.2 million from the District 5 proposal, leaving $3.2 million for upgrades to the district's temporary location in College Hill.

Four other members were in favor of a proposal to borrow an additional $6.2 million leaving the District 5 money untouched.

Mayor John Cranley said it was silly to issue debt and pay interest for money that was already available and not close to being spent since there's not a firm plan for building a new District 5 facility.

"Borrowing more money does a couple of things that are bad," Cranley said. "One it puts our credit rating in jeopardy. Two it's essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. It means that roads in Madisonville or Price Hill or College Hill or Over-the-Rhine or Avondale won't get paved as quickly over the next couple of years because they're nameless and faceless to not make a tough decision today."

But Council Member David Mann argued using part of the police station money essentially was backing council into deciding that District 5 will be located in College Hill.  

"I appreciate that this accomplishes what needs to be accomplished on Columbia Parkway; that this doesn't preemptively tip the scales on District 5," said Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld. "That's on the pro side. On the con side, I don't love that this drains a previously allocated budget for District 5."

The city has had a very public process to select a site for the police station, and the two sites still in the running are in College Hill and Clifton.  Public comments have been evenly divided between those two locations.

By using all the District 5 money for Columbia Parkway, City Council will have to find funding if upgrades are to be made to the temporary location in College Hill.

Construction work to prevent landslides along portions of the parkway is scheduled to begin in June.  That work could take 18-24 months to complete.  It will involve building additional retaining walls and using "soil nailing" to prevent the land from moving.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.