Cincinnati and Hamilton County today announced a compromise that will end the county's funding hold on sewer projects, allowing the projects to move forward. As a condition, the city will have to rework and repeal the controversial laws that incited county commissioners into approving the hold in the first place.
As part of the deal, Commissioner Chris Monzel will ask the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners to immediately repeal a hold on Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) projects.
On the city's side, Councilman Chris Seelbach will ask City Council to immediately repeal so-called "local hire" and "local preference" rules, which require a certain percentage of contractors' workforce be local residents.
The city, county and their partners will then work on changing the city's responsible bidder ordinance before new rules are officially implemented on Aug. 1.
In May, City Council modified the responsible bidder ordinance originally passed in June 2012. The changes were supposed to trigger in August, but the compromise may alter those changes altogether.
Under the current language, the ordinance forces MSD contractors to establish specifically accredited apprenticeship programs and put money — based on labor costs — toward a pre-apprenticeship fund.
The city argued the programs will help create local jobs and train local workers, but the county criticized the rules for supposedly favoring unions and imposing extra costs on MSD projects.
Meanwhile, MSD is facing pressure from the federal government to comply with a mandate to retrofit and replace Cincinnati's sewers. MSD estimates the project will cost $3.2 billion over 15 to 20 years, making it one of the largest infrastructure projects in Cincinnati's history.
But the project was effectively halted by the county commissioners' funding hold, which forced the city and county to hastily work out a compromise.
CityBeat covered the county-city conflict in further detail here.