360 Fireworks Party

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


by Michael Monks 
As part of The River City News's effort to bring you More Covington News Than Any Other Source, below you will find part two of the most comprehensive coverage from inside Covington City Hall and Tuesday night's meeting of the City Commission. The River City News is the only independent media inside City Hall each and every week. 
More than $1.5 million must be cut from public safety while another $700,000 must be cut from other city departments according to the city manager and finance director. That likely means layoffs are coming to Covington. Click the link for the full story. 
The streets of City Heights are crumbling and an apparent breakdown in communication between the City and the Housing Authority will likely keep them that way. Plus, a full list of the streets that will be resurfaced this summer in part one of the city commission recap at the link!
City takes first steps to enact Center City Action Plan
Several items on Tuesday night's city commission agenda related to possible zoning changes as recommended by Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates in its recently released Center City Action Plan which aims to revitalize Downtown Covington. One of the goals is to loosen regulations and to make it easier to do business in the City of Covington. The City's zoning specialist Andrew Juengling made a presentation on each of the suggestions that included alleviating the need for businesses to seek expensive variances on minor zoning requests, allowing community gardens in all residential areas, permitting fences around vacant properties, permitting micro-distilleries (different than micro-breweries in that these would produce liquors instead of beers), reducing regulations for developers seeking to redevelop properties within the mixed-use corridor overlay zone, allowing small specialty shops to open in storefronts within residential areas, permitting second-hand/thrift stores to be acceptable in the commercial business district, defining "temporary" in regard to signage as a thirty-day maximum time limit (which could be renewed twice), and allowing mobile food services to operate between the hours of 10:00AM and 3:00PM at select locations.
Each item was approved, though the vote only sends the ideas to the Kenton County Planning Commission to explore each issue and then to report back to the city before any vote of approval is made. There would be public forums to discuss the changes before they would be enacted. The only suggestion that was met with debate was in regards to temporary signage. "I can't see where we have got the manpower to take a permit from every merchant who wants to have a sale for a couple days," said Commissioner Steve Frank who voted against the suggestion. "At a certain point this gets nuts."
Commissioner Sherry Carran, along with Mayor Chuck Scheper and Commissioner Steve Casper, supported the change. "For quite a while we've been hearing about sign clutter in the central business district," she said. "This is the result of people wanting some sense of order on signage." The other measures were approved unanimously and will be considered by the planning commission at its July 10 meeting before being sent back to the City. 
"I can see issues on both sides," said Mayor Scheper, "but I'm willing to let it go through this process and filter it before making a final decision."
Methadone Clinic and City enter memorandum of agreement
The controversial methadone clinic that NKY Med, LLC hopes to open inside the former Save-A-Lot location on Madison Avenue is a step closer to reality, though Covington City Solicitor Frank Warnock cautioned attendees of Tuesday night's City Commission meeting that the unanimous approval by the commission does not reflect an endorsement of the clinic. "A zoning permit was awarded for a methadone clinic in Covington," Warnock said. "Part of the process involves a Kentucky regulation that says local law enforcement agencies must have a memorandum of agreement with the operators (of the clinic) and this brings the city in compliance with the (Americans With Disabilities Act).
"This is a service we offer all our businesses, only this one is in writing," added City Commissioner Sherry Carran. 
One of the managers/members of NKY Med, LLC listed with the Secretary of State's office is Dr. Gary Shearer whose Florence office was raided in April by the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency. The City of Covington challenged the clinic's opening but lost in court at the state level while a federal case is still pending. 
City Manager's executive assistant leaving post
Angela Cook, who has served as the executive assistant in the City Manager's office for five years dating back to the Jay Fossett era, is moving on to a new position. Calling the change "bittersweet", Cook said that in her new role Covington is one of thirty-two communities that she will be serving. 
Sherry Carran weeps during her farewell to Angela Cook
Angela Cook in background, Tom DiBello in foreground
With Cook's departure, law firm to handle City's NSP efforts
Angela Cook handled administrative duties for the City's Neighborhood Stabilization Program which offers federal money funneled through the state to purchase foreclosed and vacant properties for the purpose of rehabbing them into productive homes. The commission unanimously approved handing over administrative duties to Covington law firm Atkins-Elrod in a move that is payable through the NSP grant administrative fund. That grant will expire at the end of 2012. "I'm glad a Covington business got this additional work," said City Manager Larry Klein of Atkins-Elrod which has been in the city for thirty years. 
City sells 3 properties to Center for Great Neighborhoods for $1
City-owned properties at 315, 317, and 325 Orchard Streets are now owned by the Center for Great Neighborhoods which has had much success in redeveloping dilapidated properties in that surrounding area recently dubbed "Jackson Square" between the Old Seminary Square and Westside neighborhoods. "I hope you see the benefit of our ability to turn vacant homes into productive homes," said Tom DiBello, executive director of the Center for Great Neighborhoods, to the commission. 
Police Department to buy $164,000 worth of new radios... finally
Brian Valenti
The Covington Police Department has been using the same model of radios since 1998. In fact, the manufacturer, Motorola, no longer carries the model and when one needs to be repaired, if the part is available the repair happens. If the part is not, the radio is sent back unrepaired. Fraternal Order of Police President Brian Valenti said that two to three radios are sent in for repair every week, often at a cost of $500 weekly. The radio situation is so dire at the department that command staff has had to relinquish its radios so that there would be enough on the street. Typically, these radios have a lifespan of seven to nine years. City Commissioner Steve Frank noted that this is another proverbial can kicked down the road as previous city administrations ignored infrastructure needs. "We're stretching your tax dollars," Frank said, "and now we get to spend your tax dollars at the bad guys' prices."
$164,550 was approved to be paid to Motorola for new radios, though that amount will come from the police asset forfeiture fund. An additional $55,678 will be paid to 911 Fire & Fleet for police cruiser accessories such as PA speakers, window guards, and partitions. That bill will be paid from the City's capital improvement funds. 
West Covington firehouse construction delayed again
As the City of Covington continues to search for a suitable site for the West Covington firehouse, the city commission approved a memorandum of agreement with the Kentucky Department of Local Government to extend the contract for completion to June 30, 2013. It was five years ago, in 2007, that State Representative Arnold Simpson and State Senator Jack Westwood helped secure $300,000 for the project. Since then, the city commission has had to extend the contract roughly four times. City Commissioner Sherry Carran who lives in Botany Hills (AKA West Covington) said that the trouble is finding a flat location. So why not build the firehouse outside that neighborhood? Carran said the neighborhood is concerned about not having a firehouse, particularly in the event of severe flooding in which the flood gates divide Botany Hills from the rest of the city. 
Bush Street (alley) to be closed
The commission unanimously approved the closure of Bush Street which is across from the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption. The Diocese of Covington, which is redeveloping the entire area around the Cathedral, is in the process of closing on two final pieces of property before owning all that they need. Officially, there was a "first reading" of the ordinance and no vote was taken yet. 
Bush Street and area to be developed by Diocese of Covington
Additional notes from the meeting: 
  • An agreement between the firefighters union Local 38 and the City was approved related to the wage and hour provisions within the new working agreement
  • The City will continue its partnership with the school district to offer a summer youth program
  • Tony Booth, an employee since 1996, retired from the Department of Public Improvements
  • Assistant city manager Larisa Sims and assistant city engineer Mike Yeager were appointed to the intermodal coordinating committee of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana regional council of governments (OKI)
  • Shane Negangard was reappointed to a 3-year term on the audit committee
  • Jim Guthrie was appointed to a 4-year term on the urban design review board
Commissioner Steve Casper thanks emergency responders
Last Friday's tragic death of a 1-year old Covington boy in Cincinnati that was first reported as a missing child case in City Heights resulted in more than a hundred emergency responders, primarily from Covington, rushing to the scene to search for the boy. The boy's babysitter who triggered the missing person search eventually admitted that the child was dead and is now in a Cincinnati jail cell. "The whole time they were searching that child was not in City Heights and had apparently already lost his life," Casper said, fighting back tears. "Detective Brian Fuller was assigned to speak with the babysitter and he worked with her through the night to get the story."

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