Monzel's Motion May Backfire on MSD

click to enlarge Chris Monzel
Chris Monzel

A proposal made today by a Hamilton County commissioner involving sewer work related to the city of Cincinnati's planned streetcar system won't harm or delay the project, city staffers said.

That's because the motion introduced by County Commissioner Chris Monzel, a streetcar foe, would only affect additional improvements sought by the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), said Chris Eilerman, the city's streetcar project manager. The city already has allocated $3 million of its own money to relocate manholes needed for the streetcar project and do some of MSD's other improvements.—-

If only the minimum amount of work needed to accommodate the streetcars is done, the city likely will have some money left over that it can allocate for other purposes.

“The streetcar project only needs to move those manholes that physically occupy the same space as the (planned streetcar) track,” Eilerman said. “MSD has identified a larger scope of work that it would prefer to do while we're in the ground because it costs more and is more difficult if they have to do it later and work around the streetcar.

“The city has offered to help with some of those costs since we all benefit from coordinating the work now,” Eilerman added. “If the streetcar project contributes some money, MSD gets that work done for half the price.”

At a county commission meeting this morning, Monzel introduced a proposal that would prevent MSD from spending its funds to make sewer improvements at the same time as work is done to accommodate the streetcars.

Monzel's proposal stated: “MSD may not spend any funds, from any source whatsoever, on planning, design, or construction of any improvements or modifications to its facilities, or any other facilities to accommodate construction of the city’s streetcar system.”

Commissioners sent the proposal to the County Prosecutor's Office for review.

Monzel, a Republican, opposed the streetcar project while he was on Cincinnati City Council.

Although the city manages MSD's daily operations, the county owns the sewer system and controls its budget.

MSD had wanted to replace some 100-year-old sewer lines at the same time that construction work was underway to move manholes for the streetcar track.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. explained MSD's work request in a Sept. 2 letter to County Administrator Christian Sigman.

“MSD facilities along the streetcar route are very old — in some cases over 100 years old and at or near the end of their expected useful life,” Dohoney wrote. “While MSD's facilities may currently still perform adequately, improvements will ultimately be needed and accessing the facilities once the streetcar slab has been installed will need to take place in a way that does not disrupt streetcar service.

“Based on this fact, as well as the increased likelihood that improvements will be necessary in the near future due to the extreme age of the facilities, (MSD) and the streetcar team have agreed it is cost effective and advantageous to both (MSD) and the streetcar system to perform this work now,” Dohoney's letter continued.

In fact, if Monzel's proposal is successful in stopping the sewer improvements, it likely will cost MSD more to construct them later, city staffers said.

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