Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Citations, contract lapse create backlog of cleanups

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A 78 percent increase in weed and litter citations this year has led to a 27-day waiting list for Cincinnati city contractors to clean up properties, city officials said.

Crews from the nonprofit group Cincinnati Institute for Career Alternatives (CICA) started May 30 with a 400-property backlog because City Council let its contract with CICA lapse this spring, Assistant City Manager Deborah Holston told a City Council committee Tuesday.

And because the group gets paid from federal funds that are available only because it provides a dual role of training unskilled workers, the city can't just go out and hire additional workers to get rid of the backlog, she said.

The backlog has caused some members of City Council to call for changes in the system.

"The tail is wagging the dog," said Councilman Pat DeWine, chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee. "The purpose of this program is to get properties cleaned up, not to provide landscaping training to people."

CICA provides two services under the contract: the upkeep of various city owned properties, and the abatement of weed and litter violations on private property. The city then attempts to collect the cleanup costs from the property owner.

The backlog started when Councilman David Pepper had CICA's contract removed from the city's 2003-04 budget. Pepper argued that the contract wasn't competitively bid.

But when the city put the contract out to bid this year, CICA was the only organization to make a formal proposal.

The new contract resulted in a five-month delay in cleaning up properties.

At the same time, a new city ordinance intended to streamline litter citations has led to an increase in demand.



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