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Hamilton Co. Considers Hiring Consultants To Plan How To Spend $158M In Stimulus

Becca Costello

Hamilton County may hire a consulting group to help make plans for spending millions of dollars in federal stimulus. The county will get about $158 million from the American Rescue Plan.

Administrator Jeff Aluotto says consultants would focus on affordable housing, mental health, public health and community resiliency, workforce development, youth development and homeless prevention.

"These six program areas were identified as areas where we needed to take a little bit more time to look at not just what the problem was … but specifically identify solutions related to what are very complex and intractable problems in any community," he said.

Aluotto is proposing a contract for about $125,000 with Ernst and Young, an international company with a Cincinnati office. The plan calls for meetings in October and November, with final recommendations ready for approval in December.

Two of the three commissioners say they're concerned about the approach because of how much time it will take.

"I look at the dates of October, November, December for these groups to get together and look at the crux of the problem, and how to remedy the problem, and how to attack the problem — and I don't think it's that difficult," said President Stephanie Summerow Dumas. "I know you have to have a strategic plan … But with people out there suffering, I think it holds up things."

The board voted 2-1 Thursday to hold the plan until next week's commission meeting, with Vice President Alicia Reece joining Summerow Dumas to temporarily table the proposal.

The county has a few years to spend the ARP money. Some short-term programs are already in the works, including mortgage assistance launching in November.

The board voted unanimously to approve a new accountant position to help keep track of the stimulus funding.

Aluotto says he expects ARP to require a lot of fiscal compliance.

"This position will allow for that work to be undertaken in a manner that does not impede the ability of the budget office to carry on with their traditional work of fund monitoring, management, debt issuance, departmental budget, compliance, etc."

The accountant job is temporary; just during the three years in which the ARP money can be spent. It will pay between $38,000 and $52,000 a year.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.