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Pensions, Puppets and Public Safety at City Hall

Pensions, Puppets and Public Safety at City Hall
Posted Wednesday, March 19th 2014 @ 4pm  by 700WLW News

(Cincinnati) -- Without dissention, but without much enthusiasm, City Council approved a plan to save the pension fund for current employees and retirees.

The vote means the City Manager can try to renegotiate benefits with retirees before a federal judge.  But Mayor John Cranley says it could also have a positive effect on the City's bond rating.  Representatives of Moody's, and Standard and Poors are expected in the city on Thursday, to talk about the City's bond rating, which affects the interest rate Cincinnati borrows on.

While all nine members voted for the plan, several pointed out they didn't want to have to renegotiate, or take anything away from city employees, but the situation was necessary.  The fund that pays for retirees' benefits is hundreds of millions of dollars in the red.

Council also approved a $500,000 grant to help renovate a building in Westwood, as the new home of Madcap Puppets.  But there are strings attatched.  If Madcap and its supporters can't come up with the rest of the funding, the City won't have to pay.

Interim City Manager Scott Stiles says the project is expected to cost $2 million.  He says Madcap is about halfway to their fundraising goal.

The project will create about 30 construction jobs, and supporters say when it's finished, it will create a family arts center in the neighborhood, and draw people and businesses to Westwood Square.

Council members also approved shifting funding around for a new class of firefighter recruits.  Cincinnati received more than $8 million from FEMA for public safety.  The grant will pay for a recruit class of 50 firefighters, and will pay their salaries for two years.   

Mayor John Cranley says it will make the city safer, and should save money too.  He says with 50 more firefighters, they can end the brownouts of fire companies, and cut back on overtime in the department.

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