Revised Metropolitan Sewer District deal addresses ethics, transparency and minority contracting

CINCINNATI — A revised plan for the future of the Metropolitan Sewer District, released Friday night, has more specifics about transparency, ethics and minority contracting.

Hamilton County commissioners and a special Cincinnati City Council committee could vote on approving terms of that deal as soon as Monday, when they’re scheduled to hold a joint meeting at the sewer district’s offices in Queensgate.

Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune said negotiators from the county and city of Cincinnati made changes based on feedback from elected officials and the public over the past two weeks.

A 50-year agreement covering MSD’s operations expires next year, so county and city leaders have been working to figure out — and, until recently, sparring over — what’s next. Since 1968, the county has claimed ownership to MSD, while the city has handled the district’s day-to-day work.

RELATED: Could sewer rates go up if MSD deal fails?

Under the proposal first unveiled July 26, a five-member citizen board would oversee sewer operations. The board will have significant control of the multi-million dollar operation, including hiring and firing the sewer district’s director. The county would appoint three members to the board, and the city would appoint two.

But some city and county boards have come under scrutiny lately, including the Cincinnati Park Board and the Banks Steering Committee. And in recent years, MSD has been embroiled in a series of controversies: from an FBI investigation and state audit to frustration with the way MSD handles claims over raw sewage backing up in homeowners’ basements.

Friday’s update makes promises the board will be accountable, transparent and open to the public. For example, the agreement makes it clear board members must comply with Ohio’s open meeting and public records laws. Anyone appointed to the…

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