Public hearing scheduled for update on streetcar

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls has scheduled a public hearing on the status of the Cincinnati streetcar project for April 29. The hearing will take place at 6 p.m. in City Council chambers.

"Supporters and opponents of the project alike deserve a full airing and public discussion of the project at this critical point," Qualls said.

Qualls has asked the administration to come prepared to explain both the full costs of moving forward with the project and funding sources, and the full cost to the city should the project be canceled.

A memo written by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. was sent to City Council on Tuesday, revealing that the streetcar project will need more than $17 million in additional funding. Currently the City Administration is working to identify additional sources to pay for the project.

"We've been at several points like this along the line that people thought the streetcar was dead, the streetcar is not dead," Mayor Mark Mallory said Wednesday. "Bottom line is we are on a very tight time frame, but we are very committed to this project."

"It isn't yet time to give up, let's find out what happens with the cost," councilman Wendell Young told FOX19. "If there are more bridges after that we'll cross them when we get to them."

The City's spokesperson had promised the updated streetcar information last week after FOX19 sent a list of questions to the Administration regarding the progress of the project.

FOX19 reported Friday that some federal grant money requires construction by June and also reported that a group had been brought together in late March for a peer review of the project, including Deatrick.

According to Dohoney, the current budget gap for the streetcar project is $22.7 million. The City conducted an intensive review and came up with $5.3 million in cuts.

"It is clear the project will need more funding," writes Dohoney.

The memo also touches on the hiring of The Banks Project Executive John Deatrick to serve as the Streetcar Project Manager, "as soon as it is financially and logistically feasible to bring him on board."

Dohoney cites Deatrick's years of public service and construction management experience. He says Deatrick will join Chris Eilerman, arguing the streetcar project is too large to expect just one person to take on the role.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati is also gearing up for significant cuts to the its fire and police departments, in an effort to close the City's $35 million budget deficit.

"There are already existing holes in the budget," councilman P.G. Sittenfeld pointed out. "So before council would even begin to say we're going to put forward more and more money there needs to be some answers to very basic questions."

"Obviously we don't want to cause a further problem with our deficit so we're very aware of that," Mallory told FOX19. "This is a capital project. We're looking for capital dollars."

Mallory is confident the City will figure out a way to get through the impasse and move the project forward.

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