Metropolitan Sewer District
12:57 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Hamilton County and Cincinnati heading to court over sewer issue

Credit Tana Weingartner/WVXU

The debate over who sets policy for the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) is headed to a federal judge.

"We're beyond the negotiation phase," says Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann.

Hamilton County Commissioners and the City of Cincinnati are at odds over several city-instituted hiring procedures. The county says the hiring rules are illegal under Ohio Revised Code but the city argues it has home rule which trumps the O.R.C.

Commission President Chris Monzel says the county offered a compromise a few weeks ago but it was refused by the city. "Thus," he says, "we have decided to move forward."

Cincinnati council member Chris Seelbach says he's very disappointed by the county's decision.

"We have bent over backwards," says Seelbach. "We've been willing to compromise from day one.  We've compromised two feet; they've been unwilling to give an inch. So it's very disappointing that they've just given up."

The county will ask a federal court to decide whether it or the city gets to set policy for MSD.

Monzel stops short of saying the county is suing the city. He says this is a "dispute resolution process" laid out under the federal consent decree mandating the multi-billion dollar sewer upgrades.

The county owns the sewer district but it is operated by the city under a 1968 agreement. Commissioner Chris Monzel calls the agreement, "dysfunctional at best."

MSD is mandated by a federal consent decree to reduce sewer overflows into local waterways to protect the environment.  The various construction projects are planned for several years and have a price tag of more than $3 billion.