Amid layoff talks, City Council to hire manager to oversee streetcar project

Manager could make up to $188K

CINCINNATI - As the city of Cincinnati edges closer to building its long planned streetcar system, City Council is hiring a new manager to oversee the process.

Council's budget committee held a special meeting Monday morning to repeal the city's ban on so-called "double dipping" and create the new position of executive project director.

The committee approved both measures in a 5-4 vote. The full council likely will give final approval on Wednesday.

City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said he needed the changes so he can hire John Deatrick, the city's former transportation and engineering director.

Deatrick oversaw the multimillion-dollar reconstruction of Fort Washington Way in the 1990s. He then retired from the city and held a similar position in Washington, D.C., before returning to become project manger for The Banks riverfront project for Hamilton County.

Dohoney said Deatrick's expertise is crucial now the streetcar project is moving into its construction phase. Also, Deatrick has experience with helping reduce costs in large-scale projects.

"He has done projects bigger than this in his tenure," Dohoney said.

Cincinnati's streetcar system is estimated to cost between $110 million and $125 million.

In February, however, bids to install the tracks, build shelters and buy ticket machines for the system were $26 million to $43 million higher than estimated.

City officials estimated the cost would be about $44.6 million. The bids ranged from $70.9 million to $87.5 million.

The salary range for the new position is listed as $139,394 to $188,182. Because Deatrick has extensive experience, it's likely he would be paid at the scale's high end.

Opposed to the changes were Democrats Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld, Republican Charlie Winburn and independent Christopher Smitherman.

Generally, they wondered why the city is creating new positions at a time when it is mulling laying off 344 workers to fill a $35 million deficit.

The planned layoffs include 189 police officers and 80 firefighters.

"This is absolutely outrageous," Smitherman said.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who supports the hiring, called Smitherman's remarks "a nice speech."

Qualls then asked Dohoney to explain that all expenses for staffers on the streetcar project are paid from the project account and not the city's General Fund, which pays for daily operating expenses of government.

That didn't sit well with opponents, who noted streetcar expenses are paid from the federal government on a reimbursement basis, requiring some use of General Fund money until the city is repaid.

"It doesn't matter where the money comes from," Winburn said. "It's all taxpayer money."

Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, who also supports the hiring, said Deatrick could help ensure the project is done within budget.

"Whether or not you support the streetcar, we don't want to waste a dime on this project," Quinlivan said.

The repeal on the double dipping ban was needed to allow Deatrick's hiring because he is retired from the city. Double dipping is when someone retires from a job, then is hired at the same or similar job so he or she can get a pension and a salary.

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