Hamilton County will ask the court to resolve MSD dispute

Apr 2, 2014

Hamilton County will go to federal court to try to settle a dispute with the city of Cincinnati over hiring practices for a massive Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) project.

Commission president Chris Monzel said the county will file its suit next week in U.S. District Court here.

"We're going to ask the court to weigh in on the relationship between the city and the county, particuarly on procurement issues,'' Monzel said.

The county owns MSD, but the city of Cincinnati operates it.

At issue is whether the county or the city gets to set policy for MSD.

Democrats on city council passed a “responsible bidder ordinance,” which set up an apprenticeship program, which requires contractors with a contract over $400,000 to pay into a pre-apprenticeship program.

Council Democrats say it will increase local employment and train people for good-paying jobs. Republicans on the county commission say the responsible bidder ordinance favors organized labor and will hurt businesses.

The city is under a federal decree to re-do the sewer system and bring it up to current environmental standards. It is a massive project, estimated to cost $3.2 billion over the next 15 to 20 years.

City officials could not immediately be reached for comment. But council Democrat Chris Seelbach, a chief supporter of the responsible bidder ordinance, has said repeatedly that he had hoped the city and the county would be able to work out its differences without going to court.