City Council approves funding to fix Columbia Parkway retaining wall

Posted at 9:13 PM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-25 00:40:39-04

CINCINNATI — City Council made some progress on funding repairs to Columbia Parkway's retaining wall and landslide issues, but not until after a marathon session stretching past 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The council considered two options for funding the $17 million Columbia Parkway repair project. Members agreed on where to find nearly $11 million for the project but disagreed about the remaining $6 million. The city administration suggested using money previously dedicated toward relocating the Cincinnati Police Department's District 5 facility; the other option would borrow those $6 million from future city budgets.

Both options came to 4-4 votes in the absence of Councilman Chris Seelbach, who would have been the tie-breaker, and both failed. It remains unclear where the city will find the remaining dollars needed for the full Columbia Parkway fix.

Councilman David Mann introduced the option to preserve funding for District 5 and instead borrow against future budgets. According to him, "it gives us the opportunity to continue looking at a new District 5 headquarters without raiding the funding."

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld spoke in favor of Mann's proposal, questioning the council's sense of urgency around relocating the police district: "The idea that eroding (District 5 funding) is the right thing to do or the obvious thing to do doesn't make any sense. It seems perilous."

Councilman Greg Landsman was the most outspoken in opposition to Mann's proposal, saying he was uncomfortable borrowing against future capital budgets. He said that although Columbia Parkway is an emergency, the District 5 project is not ready to break ground and subsequently should defer to the parkway's repair.

"It seems straightforward to me that we simply move forward taking money from the District 5 plan and fund until we have some sense of what we're going to do there," Landsman said.

Mayor John Cranley agreed with Landsman and supported the city administration's proposal.

"Columbia Parkway has to start now," he said. "District 5 isn't even in the drawing phase."

After a nearly three-hour recess, Council members came back to approve a compromise: Instead of taking only a portion of the funding from the District 5 relocation, the Council decided to take all $10 million dollars from that project and reallocate it for the parkway. This means they will have to borrow less money from future capital budgets.

"This creates a more level playing field for where District 5 could end up going. I think this is a real compromise from both sides," Cranley said.