City can't use county sewer money for streetcar

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Money for the streetcar is now stuck in the sewers.

Cincinnati city leaders wanted customers of the Metropolitan Sewer District, or MSD, to pay half of the $6 million it would cost to make upgrades and move sewer lines to make way for the streetcar along the proposed route. City leaders had to ask because even though the City operates the sewer district, it's owned by the County.

Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel proposed a resolution to stop that from occurring, and on Wednesday, commissioners voted unanimously to not allow the City to use County sewer money to help the streetcar project.

"Anybody in Hamilton County who is flushing their toilet, running their water, they potentially could have been paying for the Cincinnati streetcar even though they do not support it or would utilize it in any way," said Monzel.

But on the other side, streetcar project manager Chris Eilerman said the project will roll on.

In an email to city workers on Wednesday afternoon, he wrote that the vote could actually save the project money since crews will now have less work to do to overhaul a smaller portion of the sewer line.

Eilerman also said the work included in the plan is work that needs to be done, if not now, then at some point in the future.

Eilerman said the sewer facilities are more than 100 years old, and could "break at any time." In a phone conversation, he said that means if the work doesn't happen today it could cost more time and money tomorrow when crews could be forced to work around a "functioning streetcar system."

Monzel disagreed.

"The way we wrote {the resolution} up, if there's any work that is necessary for our sewer lines to take place, we're going to do that work," Monzel said. "Them trying to tie it in to the streetcar project, to me, seemed underhanded and a little shady by saying 'Well, we're going to have to do this work anyway; we'll just do it for the streetcar.'"

The streetcar issue is on the November ballot. Either voters will allow for the project to continue, or will vote to not allow the planning or construction of a rail system in the city of Cincinnati for the next 10 years.

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