A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Covington Mayor to Interplastic: ‘Be Good Neighbors’ city does not want another shelter-in-place situation

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

It’s about being good neighbors.

That’s what Covington Mayor Joseph U. Meyer said at the City Commission’s regularly scheduled caucus meeting Tuesday night at City Hall.

At issue: Last month’s shelter-in-place that went out after a cloud of white smoke was seen in the air over the nearby Interplastic Corporation plant on Latonia Avenue. Residents within 1,000 feet of the plant were told to close all doors and windows, and stay inside.

Outside, the white smoke, identified as a lung irritant, kept coming from the plant, allegedly due to a broken pressure valve. 

And therein lay the problem, Meyer noted. No one from the Interplastic company ever notified the city that there was a problem.

“The city learned about it through a 911 phone call,” Mayor Meyer said, noting the safety of the nearby residents should always be the focal point.

So, he asked, what should the city do about this situation? “We’re helpless because it’s another city,” Mayor Meyer said. “(Interplastic) need to be good neighbors.”

After some discussion, it was thought that the city would meet with Fort Wright officials, as well as maybe those with local Homeland Security, before reaching out to Interplastic.

City officials asked Commissioner (and former Mayor) Denny Bowman what the city used to do in these situations. Bowman said the city used to regularly tour the plant, which helped local emergency response officials become familiar with the site — in case they had to respond to an emergency there.

Covington Fire Chief Mark Pierce said that would be the first step in the process, and offered to reach out to his counterpart in Fort Wright to get the dialogue started. 

Meyer also wondered who would pay for the city’s response that day. Eventually, he said, they will have to talk with Interplastic officials. “We need to have a dialogue with them,” he said, “and appeal to their better nature.”

Dialogue started on Cold Shelter

Mayor Meyer and the commissioners also talked about the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky, commonly referred to as the “Cold Shelter,” Tuesday night, about some of the problems the shelter is facing.

Commissioner Shannon Smith shared her experience with touring the facility, and noted it has one bathroom for 75 people. While she noted she had “adamant support” for the facility, she also said she thought it needed improvements to better help people — possibly more lights outside, as well as more police patrols?

“I know we can do better,” she said. 

The Mayor then went down a list of complaints registered against the facility:

*Making the homeless wait outside during the day before letting them come in

*Limited access during the day, even during bad weather


*Timely removal of litter

*Reliance on city public safety staff

“There needs to be a better working relationship between the Cold Shelter and its neighbors,” Meyer said.

He noted that from 2016-18, between the 500 and 700 blocks on Scott Street, police, fire and ambulances were called to the area of the shelter 2,000 times, what he called an “unimaginable number.”

Basically, the shelter needs to treat its clients in a more “appropriate way,” the Mayor said, “when the Cold Shelter makes plans for the future.”

Purchase of City-owned Property Guidelines

This property on Lee Street has been vacant since the City acquired it in 2009. Its sale is pending. (provided photos).

Commissioners heard a proposal for a set of guidelines for the purchase of city-owned property. “The city currently owns nearly 150 parcels of land — 15 of which contain a structure,” city documents say. “These parcels were acquired for a variety of reasons over the years using both local and federal funds.

While approximately 50 are being used for other purposes (parking lots, community gardens etc.) or are unsuitable for building, the vast majority could be put back into productive use for housing/economic development, side yards, parking or other uses that benefit the community while increasing the tax base for the city.” 

Over the last year, the commission authorized seven properties to be sold, but the staff was “tasked with creating a standardized process, compliant with state law, for requesting the purchase of city-owned real estate that ensures the city receives the highest value.”

Ken Smith, the city’s neighborhood services director, explained that the staff had agreed on a new process, which requires an application, a phone conversation with him, and a staff review. The Review Process would include:

*Does the city have a use for the property?

*Is the intended use appropriate?


*Recommended Method of disposition

*Request staff prepare documents and seek approval from Commission

*Review proposals and make recommendation to Commission

*The Commission said the proposal would be put on the consent agenda for next week’s legislative meeting.

Asst. City Manager Position Amended

City Manager David Johnston requested the city amend the job description for the open assistant city manager position, formerly held by Frank Warnock.

“The city manager, under consultation with the department directors and others, felt that the primary focus of this position be in intergovernmental relations, policy analyses and labor relations,” the city request reads. “The CM envisions that this position is to support the work of the department directors and to work on strategic initiatives as directed by the CM. The salary range for this position has been reduced due to the fact that the position reflects market value for this position and that it does not have to be filled by an attorney.”

The salary was reduced from $103,000-$125,000 to $80,000-$120,000.

The proposal was placed on the regular agenda for next Tuesday’s meeting.

Could Covington Become a Green Dot City?

Christy Burch, executive director of the Women’s Crisis Center, made a presentation to the Commission Tuesday night about Green Dot, a nationally recognized strategy active in 42 states, five countries and in the United States Air Force. It focuses on preventing power-based personal violence — sexual violence, partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, bullying and stalking.

The idea is simple, Burch said. Think of a map, and think of placing a red dot wherever you see or hear of an instance of someone harming a person. A green dot, then, would be anything you could do to keep a red dot from happening.

The group, which has been training Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office in Frankfort, will try to influence enough people in Covington — starting with the businesses — to make the program sustainable in the city.

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., April 23, at the Covington City Hall at 20 West Pike St.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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