Council votes to stop spending on Cincy streetcar

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - City council has voted 5-4 to suspend work on the project so an economic feasibility study can be done.

Voting in favor to suspend were council members David Mann (D), Chris Smitherman (Independent), Amy Murray (R), Kevin Flynn (I) and Charlie Winburn (R).

Against the idea of suspending were council members Chris Seelbach, PG Sittenfeld, Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson, all Democrats.

A topic of debate was the release of a confidential memo Tuesday night saying essentially the city wouldn't win their fight against Duke Energy, and would have to pay the cost to relocate their utilities.  That's been said to be in the range of $15 million which would move the cost of the project from $133 million to $148, if it holds true.

After three days of back and forth in council chambers, work is done for the time being.

"Canceling the streetcar is not what's best for the city," one supporter said to council.

"A pause does not mean cancel, and it doesn't mean cancel to me," said council member Chris Smitherman.

That was an argument heard time and time again in those meetings this week.  It's an argument that was put to an end after a 5-4 vote on Wednesday.

"I think it's a good result that we're going to stop incurring additional spending related to the streetcar until we've had the independent analysis to determine the cost of continuation versus cancellation," said Mayor John Cranley.

Project leaders say it costs $100,000 a day for streetcar work. Notification efforts are now well underway to stop that. Project executive John Deatrick says he's in the process of printing letters for nine entities, all directing them to stop working.  He'll meet with contractors on Thursday.

"I knew this project was going to be a challenge when I joined up with it.  I heard the campaign rhetoric.  It wasn't as though I didn't know what might happen," said Deatrick.

It's a challenge that could be made harder by the potential loss of $45 million in federal funds.  As of right now, the FTA has frozen federal dollars until a decision is made.

On top of that, a memo sent today by the acting city manager Scott Stiles estimates the cost of pausing work at around $3 million.

"My hope is that the FTA continues to allow us to have the funding while this research is done," said council member Yvette Simpson (D).

Though the work is on hold, Cranley who has vowed to kill the entire project, believes the cost of continuing is much higher than canceling.

"I've said publicly, I think the costs to cancel are significantly less by, probably, $100 million dollars, than to continue," said Cranley.

Deatrick says some utility work will continue. But, those companies will be notified that they won't be reimbursed during this work stoppage.

As far as Tuesday's leaked memo goes, council member Chris Seelbach called for prosecution of the person who leaked it.

Cranley told FOX19 interim city manager Scott Stiles is charged with hiring people for an independent analysis. After that's done, he expects council to come back and make a final decision on the project.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.