360 Fireworks Party

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


by Michael Monks 

UPDATE (THURSDAY 5:58PM): City Commissioner Steve Casper, also a member of the Housing Authority of Covington board of commissioners, reports at The River City News Facebook page:   
Last night's action by HAC was only the 1st step, by passing a resolution instructing the Director to speak with the City Mgr to finalize the contribution. Today after communication as directed, the money is forthcoming with much appreciation!!! When the planning process begins for Lincoln Grant I'm confident HAC will help play a role in it. Yes, Charlene many share your same concerns and desires for the school to be brought back as a viable piece of the Eastside community, the City will do everything in its power to make that happen.
Randolph Park Pool
"I don't want to just give the city fifty-thousand dollars and have them say 'thanks a lot'," said John Spence, vice chairman of the Housing Authority of Covington's board of commissioners. Spence was referencing a request from the City of Covington for a $50,000 donation from HAC that would allow the pool at Randolph Park in the city's Eastside to open this season. Without the funds, the pool, which is in poor condition, would not open. HAC's board seemed eager at Wednesday's meeting to approve the donation but Spence spoke strongly in favor of a caveat within the board's resolution: HAC would give the city $50,000 in exchange for the opportunity to facilitate and organize the redevelopment of Randolph Park and the adjacent vacant building that was once Lincoln-Grant School. Additionally, Spence requested, the Covington City Commission would publicly thank the Housing Authority for the deal.
Lincoln-Grant School
HAC's board could use the transaction to push for other things it would like to see happen on the Eastside, Spence said. "We are actually helping the city and improving the quality of life in the neighborhood," he said. Spence served as chairman at the meeting in Glenn Kukla's absence. The other three commissioners, Rita Dreyer, Michelle Sherrill, and Steve Casper (also a Covington City Commissioner) expressed concern over the language of the resolution. Though there was obvious support from the board members for the notion that HAC could facilitate and organize the redevelopment of the park and former school there were issues raised with attaching strings to what would otherwise be an act of generosity. The pool and school in question are located mere feet from HAC's forthcoming mixed-income housing project River's Edge at Eastside Pointe and also a block of city-owned parcels that could eventually be developed into market-rate housing by HAC.
The news that the pool at Randolph Park could close follows Tuesday's revelation that Gus Sheehan Pool in Botany Hills would not open this season. That pool's fate was announced in an email from the City to its online subscribers but Wednesday The River City News learned that City Hall did not want that news going public until after Thursday's meeting of the Botany Hills Neighborhood Association. With the summer pool season just weeks away word of the possible closures is arising with little public notice. 
Meanwhile, HAC's relationship with City Hall has been nothing short of tumultuous recently and was on display publicly last month during a tense joint caucus meeting with the City Commission. The donation was viewed as part of an effort to rehabilitate that fractured partnership and to score some positive publicity. Attaching the strings to the donation and requesting public acknowledgement for it took the wind out of the announcement's sails as demonstrated by inordinate spells of silence during the meeting as commissioners debated the resolution's language. More bizarrely, toward the end of that portion of the meeting when asked by The River City News to clarify his intention Spence denied having ever said any of it. 
"Just because you have it written down doesn't mean it's true," he said. 
The resolution's description read: 
For approving the expenditure of $50,000 of Housing Authority's central office cost center's non-federalized funding to assist in the revitalization of Randolph Park Pool as part of a broader revitalization strategy including Randolph Park, the Lincoln-Grant School, and the Eastside neighborhood. (snip)...the Board authorizes Aaron Wolfe-Bertling... to execute any and all documents related to the Randolph Park Pool, development of Lincoln Grant School, and a planning process under the direction of the Housing Authority of Covington for envisioning the future of Lincoln Grant School and Randolph Park.
The resolution also included details of how HAC and the City worked together during the planning process for River's Edge and heavily explored how that development could positively impact the neighboring central business district. Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to approve the resolution and explore the possibility of offering the donation and of taking over the task of redeveloping Lincoln Grant and Randolph Park. HAC Executive Director Aaron Wolfe Bertling plans to meet with Covington City Manager Larry Klein and Mayor Chuck Scheper to discuss the possibility which would require approval from the city commission.

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