Agreement: County will have to pay more to the Bengals - as much as $30 million

Agreement: County will have to pay more to the Bengals - as much as $30 million
The stadium lease signed by county commissioners and the Bengals in 1997 expires in 2026. (FOX19 NOW FILE)

Cincinnati Enquirer - Hamilton County taxpayers won't be able to avoid paying the Bengals additional millions of dollars required in the final years of the team's lease.

That's according to a memorandum of understanding the county and Bengals reached in a dispute over a provision in the 21-year-old Bengals lease. At issue: increased payments due to start this year under terms of the lease.

The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the MOU Wednesday morning.

County officials say the MOU buys them an additional year to continue negotiating how much they have to pay the Bengals.

"The requirement to make the payment is moved off by a year," said County Administrator Jeff Aluotto. "What this resolution has done is to continue to provide time for the need to discuss the future of the lease."

It would delay the additional minimum payment of $2.67 million per year the lease for Paul Brown Stadium requires Hamilton County would have to start paying in the final nine years.

The money is for game day cleanup, security, utiltiies and maintenance. The contracted negotiated by the county leaders in the 1990s backloaded county payments toward the end. Now the bill has come due.

The lease signed by county commissioners and the Bengals in 1997 expires in 2026. That means the first check was due this year.

At least for now, the Bengals won't forgive the county what was agreed to in the lease. But the county will pay this year's payment in three installments of $890,000 through 2021.

The payments will now start in 2019 instead of this year.

That's in addition to what's owed already by the lease.

That means in 2019, the county will have to pay $2.8 million plus the $890,000.

Board of Commissioners President Todd Portune earlier had claimed it was an illegal provision, though wouldn't elaborate on why. Hamilton County didn't put the $2.67 million in the budget this year.

Whether the county still thinks it's illegal, however, wasn't clear. Commissioner Denise Driehaus and County Administrator Jeff Aluotto said the agreement buys time to continue negotiating the game day cleanup payments. What the county wants changed and how they're negotiating, they wouldn't say.

"What we did today is a piece of that, where we're pushing game day operation payments out and having some capital improvements made now, which we would be making," Driehaus said. "I think it's to the benefit to the taxpayers."

If nothing changes, it will only get more expensive for the county.

The annual payments from the county increase five percent each following year. So the county would owe $2.8 million for cleanup and maintenance costs incurred in the 2018-2019 season. The next year's payment is $2.94 million. That means the final year's payment would be about $3.9 million.

The total county payments would equal $30 million over the nine years.

Also, the MOU being voted on today would also require the county to pay an additional $1.4 million in upgrades. This includes upgrades to the "point-of-sales" system, security cameras, and locker rooms. The MOU doesn't specify what those upgrades involve.

A statement from The Bengals praised the agreement. It read in part:

"The Bengals appreciate Hamilton County's leadership and cooperation on the matter. Many issues will be coming down the pike in future years, and the parties need to be able to work together so that those issues can be solved, so that Paul Brown Stadium remains a wonderful venue for sports fans, and so that Cincinnati's riverfront remains a gem for the whole region."