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Hamilton County: Cincinnati owes us $4.28 million for MSD maintenance

Hamilton County Commissioners approve monthly billing for sewer statements
Posted at 1:44 AM, Nov 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-02 10:53:45-04

CINCINNATI — In a pair of terse letters sent Thursday to city solicitor Paula Boggs-Muething, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters accused the city of Cincinnati of withholding $4.28M meant for the county’s maintenance of the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati and misusing MSD funds to battle the county in court.

If the full $4.28 million isn’t paid by Nov. 20, Deters wrote, the county is prepared to sue.

The messages represented the latest salvo in a perennial city-county legal battle over MSD, which has been partially run by both since 1968. MSD is a county-run entity and holds the purse strings, while the city of Cincinnati employs its workers. The city is also expected to reimburse the county for the county’s MSD-related expenditures — and hasn’t for 18 months, according to Deters’ letters.

RELATED: Deters: Six prosecutors probing 'unmitigated disaster' of Metropolitan Sewer District mismanagement

“The County Administration has patiently attempted to work with the City Administration to obtain the … funds owed,” he wrote in one. “These efforts have failed. We write to you to demand payment.”

In the other letter, he accused the city of using MSD ratepayers’ money to pay for an ongoing legal battle against the county in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

MSD’s two layers of management often collide in federal court and do so more frequently than ever in 2019, a full year after the original ’68 agreement’s 50-year span technically expired. Prolonged battles over what kind of plan should replace it have played out repeatedly in the Sixth Circuit, with no ceasefire in sight.

FROM 2018: Auditor: Cincinnati's Metropolitan Sewer District made $779K in improper payments

Both sides submitted competing replacement plans in June. When the EPA and Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission suggested their own, both sides roundly rejected it.

“This has been a fight between the city and county for 20 years,” Deters told WCPO Friday night. “I just wish that there was an equitable way to settle this dispute. It’s hurting the city, it’s hurting the county and it’s hurting ratepayers.”