Hamilton County Considers Alternative Sentencing Extension, Lower Sewer Rate Offer

Jan 29, 2019

Those running an alternative sentencing pilot program in Hamilton County say it's been successful so far and want it to continue.

The Community Alternative Sentencing Center (CASC) focuses on sending misdemeanor OVI offenders to community-based programs like Talbert House, opening up jail beds for higher-level offenders.

Kevin Bonecutter with Hamilton County Adult Probation says it opens up more treatment beds, too. "About 28 beds that are under contract that we can reallocate to treatment beds - treatment beds that our county so desperately needs as we continue to fight this heroin and opiate epidemic that's ravishing our community."

County officials are working on renewing the program. A portion of the funding comes from the state through the Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison (TCAP) program.

Could There Be A New Sewer Rate For Low-Income Seniors?

Hamilton County commissioners are considering an assistance program for certain Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) customers.

Interim Director Diana Christy says the program would offer a lower rate for homeowners aged 65 and older who meet certain poverty levels and other criteria.

"The request asks for a 20 percent senior discount rate to be established," she says.

MSD's criteria is based on Ohio's homestead exemption. The current proposal targets homeowners, not renters because water and sewer bills, Christy says, are tied to property owners. However, the program could be expanded later to somehow include renters who directly pay their water/sewer bills.

Perhaps surprisingly, Christy says similar programs in other communities have low participation rates.

A public hearing is forthcoming.

If approved, it would take 3-6 months to implement. MSD says other customer rates would not be raised to offset the revenue losses.

Longtime proponents of lower rates who heard the presentation at Tuesday's commission staff meeting say they're happy to see the proposal moving forward. Several members of the environmental justice advocacy group Communities United for Action (CUFA) were glad to hear the latest progress, though they're concerned about several points, including excluding renters.

They're also looking toward how the assistance programs could be changed in the future. MSD says it's limited in what it can offer because of restrictions in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC).

"We wanted to make sure that if the Ohio Revised Code is changed or modified so that you are allowed to have more comprehensive qualifications, will that be taken into consideration when you set up this customer assistance program?" asks Wanda Ball. "Will you be able to modify your qualifications to offer it up to more people if the law permits?"