By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer
READING - This city's recent financial struggles have raised questions about the wisdom of proceeding with a planned $2.5 million streetscape project for the Reading Road business district.
The city has spent five years and $250,000 planning this project, which is designed to create an ambience that will help retain and attract businesses.
But this week, Mayor Earl Schmidt vetoed the project.
"Given the financial instability of our general fund," he said, "it would be fiscally irresponsible for us to take on a project of that magnitude."
But Schmidt's veto isn't expected to stick. City Council is expected to override the veto at its Sept. 2 meeting by a 5-2 vote.
Councilman Ken Nordin, who had favored postponing the project, has switched his position and will give council the five votes needed to override the mayor's veto.
He changed his mind about the project this past week after the city transferred $900,000 from the capital fund to the general fund to make sure the city has a balanced budget at the end of the year. A month ago, the city had borrowed $500,000 to make its payroll.
"Once the general fund was made whole and they were doing business the right way, I was willing to support the streetscape project again," Nordin said.
The streetscape project is intended to improve the appearance of Reading Road from Vorhees Street to the railroad track between Columbus and North streets.
It will include street trees, landscaping and improvements in pedestrian areas, sidewalks, parking, lighting and signage as well as new benches and trash receptacles.
Councilman Russ Wulf, like Schmidt, thinks it's a good project that Reading can't afford right now.
"I feel that if we do the streetscape project, we won't have enough money to support the general fund next year," Wulf said.
But Councilman Tom Pennekamp said the project is too important to Reading's future to postpone.
"This is the time to stop the deterioration of Reading Road," he said. "If we don't do the project, I feel it will seriously injure the financial future of the city."
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