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67% of Respondents Add Name to Letter Urging County to Stop Delaying Jobs and Training for Local Workers
Cincinnati, OH (February 18, 2014) – An additional 7,944 people joined Build 513's second Telephone Town Hall in two weeks to learn about the urgent need for the Hamilton County Commission to begin responsible bidding on EPA-mandated upgrades to Cincinnati's crumbling sewer system. Rob Richardson, who leads the coalition of worker and community allies, hosted the call with City Councilman Chris Seelbach and others representing the small business and environmental communities.
"We are concerned about the environmental impact of the delay the County has caused by holding up funds for the MSD project," added Sierra Club leader Joe Bowman. "Sewage overflows threaten our health and pollute our rivers. These projects will help fix our crumbling sewer system that has been dumping too much sewage into our waterways."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that the Metropolitan Sewer District issue contracts for about $3.2 billion in work, which must break ground by year's end, according to Commissioner Chris Monzel. Meanwhile, City Councilman Charlie Winburn recently warned that the County's failure to fund MSD could put taxpayers in jeopardy of costly fines for missed EPA deadlines.
"Cincinnati City Council passed the responsible bidder ordinance that ensures that contractors working on MSD projects participate in training and apprenticeship programs for their workforce," Seelbach said. "Cincinnati families we speak with everyday are concerned about good jobs and whether young people will have an opportunity to start a career and build a better life."
The ordinance, in effect for nearly a year, holds all MSD contractors accountable for proven pre-apprenticeship traning programs that help build a skilled, safe workforce. Training requirements, coupled with fair compensation, have been proven to save money for taxpayers. But instead of letting work begin on projects that are critical to keeping our rivers clean and our community safe, County Commissioners are threatening to force taxpayers to foot the bill for frivolous litigation.
After Seelbach’s repeated attempts to broker a compromise, Monzel and others, who recently headlined a “Drinks and Cigars” political fundraiser to “insure proposed laws like 'MSD Responsible Bidder' ultimately fail," still refuse budge. All the County has offered is a resolution, "ceasing implementation" of the ordinance, which is a step backward for ratepayers who demand results, not unenforceable promises.
"Those trying to undo the ordinance are just doing the bidding of unscrupulous contractors, such as those in the Associate Builders and Contractors," Richardson added. "Their mission is to drive down wages and training standards in order to increase their profits – even if it burdens ratepayers with costly fines and rate hikes and threatens our water."
Seelbach and others on the Council, who recently voted to uphold the law, are now turning directly to the voters. During the town hall, 67 percent of respondents added their name to the hundreds of others who have already signed an open letter urging Commissioners to "release the funds" to "allow clean water and good jobs to flow into our community." The full letter is available at bit.ly/lettheworkbegin.
"Responsible bidder is exactly what Cincinnati’s economy needs," small-business owner Pam Champion added. "We all benefit as ratepayers and taxpayers because we depend on the city’s water and sewer systems for their everyday needs and the system has fallen in to disrepair. The ordinance will help grow responsible local contractors while lifting up struggling families."
This town hall is just the latest show of growing support, following the almost 60 people who rallied outside the County Administration buidling and others who spoke out directly to Commissioners at last week's meeting. The Build 513 Coalition will continue building support in the coming days with outreach to local community groups throughout the city.