- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

CINCINNATI (AP) - The city-run sewer district in Cincinnati spent hundreds of millions of public dollars with little or no oversight at a time when residents’ sewer rates have risen steadily, according to a newspaper’s investigation.

The report by the Cincinnati Enquirer (https://cin.ci/1ULsU1A ) found the Metropolitan Sewer District spent approximately $680 million in the decade following a November 2007 memo from a former city manager that the newspaper says eliminated a critical checks and balances system.

That gave the district and its former director, Tony Parrott, nearly total control over decisions related to a $3 billion, court-ordered overhaul of Hamilton County’s sewers, the newspaper reported. Without the checks and balances, the sewer district awarded million-dollar projects to contractors without seeking competitive bids, hired consultants for work that wasn’t clearly defined and paid invoices containing vague language about work that was supposedly completed, the Enquirer reported.

Parrott is now director of Louisville’s sewer district and says the purchasing process in Cincinnati had sufficient safeguards. The authority he received to make decisions was necessary to keep projects moving along quickly and avoid possible fines for missing court-ordered deadlines, Parrott told the newspaper.

“Milestones were set,” he said. “We had to deliver projects.”

The current Cincinnati city manager says he is changing the rules to better control sewer district spending and now reviews every significant purchase in the district and the city’s other departments.

“Too much authority was delegated,” City Manager Harry Black said.

County officials who have complained about sewer district spending say they’re glad the city realizes there’s a problem.

“It’s a travesty being borne on the backs of ratepayers,” county Commissioner Chris Monzel said.

He says the average sewer bill has more than doubled since 2006, from $101 a quarter to $211.


Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, https://www.enquirer.com

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