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Ethics recommendations, Parking Authority, IRS plan, jobs highlight Cov. Commission caucus meeting

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By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

Residents, get ready for more discussion on some meaty topics.

City commissioners spent most of their caucus meeting Tuesday night deciding what will be discussed at next week’s legislative meeting – and the list is long.

Covington Commissioners discussed a wide range of topics at Tuesday’s caucus (photo by Ryan Clark).

Covington’s citizens should be prepared to hear details from the city’s ethics committee, listen to the creation of a possible parking authority, discuss possible IRS site strategic planning and debate the hiring and creation of certain jobs (like a communications manager, an assistant city solicitor and several code enforcement officers, for instance).

But of course, there was also plenty of pre-discussion at the caucus Tuesday. Topics now slated for discussion on the commission’s regular legislative agenda include:

  • Ethics Committee: Mayor Joseph U. Meyer reported that the city’s ethics committee, which includes himself, as well as Commissioners Jordan Huizenga and Tim Downing, have met (and will meet again Thursday at 6:30 p.m.) and have recommended a change to 35.40 of the current code, which states “All employees of the city are prohibited from being a candidate for Mayor or City Commissioner while employed with the city. An employee must resign within five days after filing candidacy papers.” Essentially, the change will state that those running “can be candidates without giving up their position,” Meyer said. He also explained that the ethics committee will have their final recommendations after their meeting Thursday.
  • Parking Authority: City Manager David Johnston is attempting to craft an ordinance that will create a Parking Authority for the city, an entity that will manage new and existing parking facilities, as well as manage parking contracts. Johnston has argued the staff is too overworked, and that the city needs a board with expertise in handling parking issues. The authority would essentially have five members, made up of three residents and two investors (who would ideally also be residents), appointed by the Mayor.
  • IRS Site Strategic Planning RFQ: Johnston also mentioned setting up an RFQ, or a “best qualified” candidate to help create strategic planning for the IRS site, which is supposed to close by 2019.
  • Communications Manager: Johnston also would like to create a position for a communications manager, which would oversee the city’s public information officer. “Basically because of the issues we’ll be facing in the next two years,” he said, noting the pension issue, the closing of the IRS and the impact on the city’s services. “We need someone who will more strategically communicate internally as well as externally.” The job, which will have management responsibilities, could be paid as much as $117,000 annually. Commissioner Bill Wells questioned the addition, calling it basically another “PR position.” He noted that the city has 14 open positions and is currently $1.5 million over payroll as compared to the same time last year.
  • Park Hills Agreement: Covington is considering entering into a “neighborly” agreement with Park Hills where the city will pay $100 annually for Park Hills to maintain the stretch of Breckenridge and Audubon Roads – about 1,500 feet – where strictly Park Hills residents live. The maintenance would include reinforcing, patching, cleaning and removing snow, ice, etc. If anything more important or costly were to occur, it would be understood that the two entities would meet and discuss how to solve the problem, Assistant City Manager Frank Warnock said. Either side could opt out of the agreement at any time by writing a letter to the other city’s mayor.
  • Code Enforcement staff: Johnston and the commission are still trying to decide how to increase the number of city code enforcement officers. Should they hire four part-time employees or two full-time employees? Johnston would like to move forward as quickly as possible and hire part-time workers, which could then transfer into full-time. Commissioner Wells noted that the city’s enforcers have been at half-staff for the past eight months. “I don’t know how much longer they can last,” he said. But Meyer doesn’t seem to agree with the part-time plan. He noted that in 2013, with a full-time staff of enforcers, they brought in 4,481 code cases, while in 2016, with part-time staff, they brought in 2,537. “Personally, I think this is real important – worthy of the city’s financial investment,” Meyer said. “We need a thought-out decision.”
  • Meyer noted these and other topics may be discussed at a city planning meeting, which will be held Saturday, Jan. 27.

The next Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., Jan. 16 at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

Two ordinances will be up for consideration following a second reading:

  • The creation of positions for a Project Engineer and a Neighborhood Services Director
  • The transfer of two parcels of land to the city of Taylor Mill.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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