City Manager releases plan to fund over-budget streetcar project - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

City releases plan to fund over-budget streetcar

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

Cincinnati officials released a plan to pay for the over-budget streetcar project on Tuesday, details many have been waiting for since mid-February.

The project is facing a $17.4 million gap.

In a memo sent to Mayor Mallory and members of council, City Manager Milton Dohoney presented multiple funding options.

Mainly, recommending a combination of funding sources:

  • $6.5 million from funds connected to projects around the Cincinnati Horseshoe Casino site.
  • $5.4 million from money originally set aside for the Music Hall project, which won't be needed until 2016.
  • $400,000 from money already budgeted for traffic signal replacement and improvements.
  • $500,000 from Cincinnati Water Works, which would help pay for water main work associated with the streetcar project.
  • Remaining $4.6 million from issuing General Capital debt, which would reduce money available to pay for economic development and housing projects by 3% over the next 20 years.

While not included in the project, Dohoney also highlighted future funding that could come available, such as money placed in escrow, while a judge decides which party will pay to relocate utilities around the streetcar. 

FOX19 spoke to several city council members about the memo, and some of them are still split on the idea of building this streetcar in Cincinnati.

"I don't think that just from my first glance there's enough that makes sense to me that adds up to $17.4 million.  But, I'm absolutely willing to go through each line item that's recommended and see if we can find a way to fund the additional money," said council member Chris Seelbach.

Seelbach says he doesn't want to lose this project, and the federal dollars and other financial obligations that are attached to the project.  Alongside him is council member Yvette Simpson.  After a meeting Monday night showing the costs of moving the project forward, or scrapping it, her mind is made up.

"I think we need to move forward with it.  I think the most stark number that was presented yesterday was the $72 million that we would lose based on our original investment and returning funds from the federal government, and the $17 million that is required to get to the construction phase," said Simpson.

But it's not so easy for other council members like Chris Smitherman. He says no to the project, citing a project that has soared in cost.

"There are no viable options here.  The reality here is that we can't afford the streetcar.  That's where I am that they sold us to the voters $110 million and we're now at 133," Smitherman told FOX19.

Smitherman added there are other capital projects around the city that need attention before a streetcar.

As for the more than $4 million in debt potentially created under this plan, Milton Dohoney says in the memo this would impact economic development or housing projects.  But, he says the tradeoff is that this streetcar is an economic development project that will promote small business creation and new residences.

City council still needs to approve the plan. The next meeting for the Budget and Finance Committee is set for May 13.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.

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